Google expands flood and wildfire tracking to more countries

A herd of new AI projects are coming soon from Google, including disaster monitoring tools and a service that uses artificial intelligence to generate personalized videos. The company announced the array of initiatives at its AI@ event this week.

Most practical development: Google is expanding its AI-powered disaster tracking and response systems. The company deployed a wildfire tracking tool during the 2020 apocalyptic fire season. The tool aims to track wildfire movements in real time using satellite imagery, ground data and AI predictions. Now the feature is expansion in the United States, Canada, Mexico and Australia. It aims to provide useful information to people in fire-affected areas who need up-to-the-second knowledge of where a fire is moving and who it might affect. The tool will appear in Google Maps, sending alerts to users who are nearby and showing them evacuation and shelter options. Google also uses similar AI modeling to track floods and has expanded its flood warning system to include 18 new countries in Africa, South America and Southeast Asia.

Google has also taken the AI ​​art generation game one step further with a new video creation tool that combines Google’s Imagen image generation platform and Phenaki’s video generator. These platforms working in concert are capable of creating short bursts of high resolution video from a simple text prompt. The video generator tool is not yet available to the public as a service, and Google has given no indication of when or if it might be. The news comes just over a month after Meta announced a similar service called Make-a-Video. Both companies are keen to cash in on the AI ​​art craze, though the prospect has proven controversial among artists.

Here’s some news from the Consumer Products Office.

PS VR2 pre-orders

Thanks to Mark Zuckerberg’s metavangelism, it can feel like VR for video games has fallen out of favor compared to other VR destinations like virtual offices or whatever from Horizon Workrooms. But now Sony wants to remind you that it also has a new VR headset. And this week, he announced his release.

The long-awaited PS VR2 headset will be released on February 22 and will be available for pre-order on November 15. It will cost $550. It’s more expensive than an actual PlayStation 5 console (depending on where you are), and the price includes the VR2 Sense controllers needed to run games in the Sonyverse.

Overall, the system shows great promise for what VR gaming could be, assuming the games that have been announced for it are half-decent. The PS VR2 headset will only work with the PlayStation 5. Sony also recently confirmed that games for the latest generation PS VR1 will not work with this new headset.

Where did I go?

Google likes to kill its own apps. This week, 9to5Google discovered that the company plans to add its standalone Street View app to its infamous boneyard in the coming weeks. The app allows users to add their own 3D photos to Street View, which Google could then use to map places its cars and camera-equipped backpacks couldn’t reach.

The service does not disappear entirely. It will still be available in Google Maps, except for a few features like Photo Paths, which allow users to upload 2D photos of their surroundings.

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