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I went to Google’s MWC event to see Gemini AI, but I stayed for the McLaren F1 car

Published Feb 26th, 2024 10:20AM EST
Google's Android Village booth at MWC 2024.
Image: Chris Smith, BGR

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Google hosted a short press event early on Monday morning in Barcelona, Spain, to announce several new features for Android. Among them was a new Chat with Gemini feature for Google Messages that will let you talk to Google’s marquee AI product without leaving the app. However, there was something that was much more exciting at the event: The McLaren F1 car that Google brought out to showcase its partnership with the famous F1 racing team. 

Then again, the fact that McLaren is relying on Google and Samsung products to set world records for pit stops won’t help you during your regular day-to-day Android experiences. What might help you are the novel features that Google introduced at the show and the expanded generative AI support coming to more Android apps.

We’ve been texting in smartphone apps and fighting over which messaging app is better for nearly 20 years. If anything, we’re pretty good at texting, as that’s easily the primary form of communication between people right now. 

I feel like I don’t need AI to help me write in chat apps, whether it’s iMessage, WhatsApp, or Google Messages. But I might be wrong. Generative AI could be useful in various scenarios, and Google’s short Android presentation at MWC showed me that. 

Gemini AI and Android Auto

One new Android feature that Google demoed in Barcelona concerns texting while driving. Again, that’s something we could already prevent before Google Gemini rolled out. But now that generative AI is here to help, there is one feature that might turn out to be a life-saver while you’re driving. 

Android Auto will summarize long texts with the help of AI.
Android Auto will summarize long texts with the help of AI. Image source: Chris Smith, BGR

Android Auto can summarize long texts for you, which will definitely come in handy. Rather than having the entire text read aloud, you’ll get a summary with the main points. 

I saw the feature in action in a BMW i5 M60 parked inside the Android Village. Of course, it was only the second-coolest car at Google’s outdoor booth after the McLaren F1 race car.

You can still use Google Assistant to send messages and reply to them, but you’ll be doing all of that while keeping your eyes on the road rather than the Android Auto screens. 

Chat with Gemini inside Google Messages

As for the regular Google Messages experience, the Chat with Gemini feature is rolling out to several eligible devices right away. That means Pixel 6 or later, Pixel Fold, Galaxy S22 or later, and Galaxy Z Fold or Flip. It’ll work in English in all countries where the feature is rolling out, and in French (in Canada). Just update Google Messages to the latest update and sign in using a personal account. 

Chat with Gemini is available in Google Messages on Android.
Chat with Gemini is available in Google Messages on Android. Image source: Google

Once the feature is enabled, you can tap the Chat with Gemini button to get started. There is one important thing to remember here. Chats with Gemini aren’t end-to-end encrypted. These are chats with the AI, not with your friends and family. 

Google Messages also supports Magic Compose in Google Messages, with Gemini powering the experience. That’s one thing I tried at Google’s Android booth, where I used AI to give my “Android Buddy” a Shakespearian take on my experience at MWC so far. 

For Magic Compose, Google only uses the previous 20 messages to get context. The data is processed on the Pixel 8 Pro and Galaxy S24 device or sent to the cloud on other devices. Google doesn’t retain these messages, and Gemini isn’t trained on them. RCS messages remain end-to-end encrypted in this case.

Magic Compose was one of the Gemini AI demo at Google's booth.
Magic Compose was one of the Gemini AI demos at Google’s booth. Image source: Chris Smith, BGR

Other Android experiences announced at MWC

Aside from Gemini summarization in Android Auto, Google unveiled seven new Android features.

  • Generative AI can create captions for images in Lookout. 
  • An enhanced screen reader is available for Lens in Google Maps, allowing the phone to read out loud information about places nearby (like business hours, ratings, or directions).
  • Google Docs supports handwritten annotations. You can use your hand or stylus on a phone or tablet to mark up documents.
  • The output switcher on Android now supports Spotify Connect devices.
  • The redesigned Fitbit app now supports health data from various wearable devices, including AllTrails, Oura, and MyFitnessPal.
  • Google Wallet passes are now available on Wear OS devices.
  • Public transit directions are available in Google Maps for Wear OS

What about the McLaren F1 car?

Last season, McLaren pulled off an amazingly fast pit stop time during one of the races. That 1.8-second pit stop is now a world record. It’s not just thanks to a well-trained team performing tasks in unison when that F1 car comes into the pit. McLaren worked with Google and Samsung to achieve this feat. 

The team used Android devices during practice, capturing video during training and sharing it between devices. 

McLaren's F1 race car parked inside Google's MWC booth.
McLaren’s F1 race car parked inside Google’s MWC booth. Image source: Chris Smith, BGR

McLaren Racing announced at MWC that it will deepen its partnership with Google. In addition to Samsung phones, McLaren will use Google Pixel devices this season. Furthermore, Google AI will help with race data collection and management. 

If you’re an F1 fan, you’ll see the markings of this partnership on the race cars. Expect to see Google Chrome, Android, and Pixel branding on the F1 car and the driver and crew outfits.

Expect to see lots of Google branding this F1 season.
Expect to see lots of Google branding this F1 season. Image source: Chris Smith, BGR
Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.