Gboard for Android now recognizes hand-drawn emoji and anticipates your next phrase

Google’s Gboard is already one of the best and smartest ways to communicate on a phone, given its direct link to Google search and all the company’s artificial intelligence-powered predictive and natural language capabilities. Now, with an update rolling out to the Android version of the app today, Gboard is getting even smarter. Google’s keyboard now recognizes hand-drawn emoji and will now predict full phrases instead of just the next possible word. The changes are expected to come to the iOS version at a later date.

This is all the work of Google’s ongoing AI research, which at a high level helps improve the company’s software by churning through mounds of data and learning over time using training techniques like deep learning and reinforcement learning. Thanks to tools like Quick, Draw!, a web game that guessed what you doodled on screen even when it was terribly drawn, Google has been able to make sizable advances in the image recognition department. This manifests itself in actual consumer products when Gboard is able to observe your crude drawing of a cat and suggest an accurate emoji to replace it.

Image: Google

The company’s AI research also helps improve Gboard’s natural language understanding. That way, when you type a phrase like “looking forward,” Google understands the context and will now suggest “to it” or “to seeing.” Past versions of Gboard were only capable of suggesting possible next words using predictive engines, so this is a subtle but powerful step up.

Alongside those enhancements, Google says Gboard’s search function will now show more results and also more easily link out to other apps like Google Maps and YouTube when appropriate. Google is also adding support for more languages — you’ll now get suggestions and swipable gesture typing for Azerbaijani (Iran), Dhivehi, French (Belgium), Hawaiian, Maori, and Samoan. Brand-new languages being added with the update include Dzongkha, Ewe, Navajo, Tsonga, and K'iche', though you’ll only be able to type in those languages and not use any of the more powerful AI-assisted features.


I’m moderately certain that this will be useless for me because Google doesn’t give a shit about foreign languages.

Best example is their much-lauded "Assistant" which is lightyears BEHIND Siri and Cortana when it comes to parsing a text in a foreign language. I can’t even create a simple appointment with the thing because it doesn’t even parse the time correctly – just to be clear: The Speech-To-Text component works great. It’s when it comes to doing something useful with said text that the Assistant falls flat on its face and makes a complete hash of things, often confusing the time with the subject (which leads to "hilarious" entries like "o’clock at the doctor’s" as a subject)

And if you want to correct wrong entries you have to TYPE them. Leading a VOICE powered assistant completely ad absurdum.
Using Cortana, if I missed something (like the appointment’s subject) she asks me for it. Assistant? Nope.
Just one example.

Agree 100%. It’s really wierd that assistant can both understand and translate what you say better than any other engine, and it still sucks when it comes to simple commands like adding appointments to the calendar.

If only their "image recognition" capabilities could be used for deciphering handwriting instead of stupid emoji. One of the neatest things about the LG keyboard is the support for writing (block and cursive) words instead of typing them. Even with just your finger tip, although a stylus made it more accurate.

Bring on the handwriting features!!

That’s nice but… Typing is so much faster

Hello, thing that has existed for a long time.

However, integrating it baseline into Gboard seems to be coming, considering the emoji image recognition has been a part of the handwriting input.

Actually, Google does offer handwriting support. If you install "Google Handwriting Input" alongside gboard, you can switch back and forth between them with the press of a button.

Not sure if anyone else has this problem but over the past month or two, autocorrect and the prediction especially, have got so bad that it’s basically useless. In fact, it often autocorrects words to the wrong tense even when the word itself is spelled correctly. I’m super close to just ditching Gboard altogether.

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