Hashtag Trending – Parking with Google Maps, AI assistants bonanza

Google wants to help you find that perfect parking spot, tech brands are making moves with their voice-activated assistants, and Product Hunt gets an upgrade.

Trending on Google is a smattering of news about voice-first assistants. It seems like every big consumer tech brand is making moves to get their AI assistants closer to you. Google Assistant has been available on iPhone in the U.S. for months, but this week it was launched in the U.K., Germany, France, and India. iPhone users can’t replace Siri for the home button shortcut, but they can use an app to talk to Google Assistant. Samsung’s Bixby assistant is now available in 200 countries. It can be accessed by owners of Galaxy S8 or Galaxy Note 8 smartphones. But Bixby was absent from the Samsung Gear wearables unveiled at the IFA electronics trade show in Berlin. One more thing – Amazon and Microsoft have struck a deal. You can now ask Alexa to talk to Cortana and vice versa. I knew they were friends before, but I didn’t think they’d move in together.

From Facebook, Google Maps has a new feature that could help you find that perfect parking spot. First off, its parking difficulty icons are coming to 25 cities outside the U.S. Difficulties range from “limited” to “medium” to “easy” and are color-coded. Second, it’s launching a new “find parking” feature in 25 U.S. cities. This shows you a selection of parking garages and lots near your destination. Then you can save your parking location on the map, so even coming back to your car is easier.

And on Product Hunt, well the site itself got a big upgrade with version 4.0. Founder Ryan Hoover says the goal was to make product pages more useful for the community and for product makers. Some new features include badges, which are sort of like trophies for being popular. Descriptions are now included to illustrate what the product does and who it’s for. Reviews allow users to write what they really think about a product. And if you’re looking for work, the Jobs feature indicates that the team behind a product is recruiting.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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