Google Sheets uses machine learning to build you better charts

Google spent plenty of time at its I/O developer conference earlier this month talking about how we’re entering the age of AI. Today, the company’s humble spreadsheet app Sheets is getting an upgrade thanks to Google’s machine learning smarts. Sheets has long had an “explore” tool that analyzes your spreadsheets and builds charts automatically, but as of today you’ll be able to ask for charts using natural language.

Hitting the “explore” button brings up some default charts based on your particular spreadsheet. But if you want to get custom, you can just type things like “histogram of 2017 customer ratings” or “bar chart for ice cream sales” (two examples Google provided).

Another handy new feature closely links Sheets with Google’s presentation app Slides. Last year, Google added the ability to automatically update data from Docs into Slides with one click. Now, Google’s adding similar syncing features that go from Sheets into both Docs and Slides. That is, if you’re using the same table for data between these apps, you can just click an “update’ button to pull in the latest information from the master source.

Google also added a bunch of new functions to Sheets, bringing the total to more than 400. There’s also a new chart editor sidebar that should make building the right graph a little bit easier; this will also be available on Sheets for iPad and iPhone today as well. And for those of you who still need to put your spreadsheets on dead trees, there are a few new tools that make it easier to print your document. If you want to give these new features a shot, Google says they’re live today.

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Apple will build an R&D center in China’s Silicon Valley

Apple needs China a little more than China needs Apple, which is why the company is bending over backwards to show some love to the Middle Kingdom. VentureBeat is reporting that the iPhone maker will open a research and development center in Shenzen, the Silicon Valley of Hardware. The site quotes Apple spokesperson Josh Rosenstock saying that the facility will help Apple’s engineers work “even more closely and collaboratively with our manufacturing partners.” Given that Shenzen is home to Foxconn City, the site where several Apple products are assembled, it makes sense that Apple would push for an official presence in the region. The site quotes local news sources as saying that Tim Cook held a meeting with Shenzen officials while at a Chinese innovation event, and was joined by Foxconn chief Terry Gou. It’s not the first time that Apple has pledged to build facilities in the country this year, with Cook pledging cash for a research and development building in Beijing back in August. That project is designed to increase cooperation with a country that’s been increasingly wary of Apple’s presence.

China very quickly became a key driver of iPhone growth for Apple, but as the smartphone market has stalled, those figures have begun to droop. The firm wants to demonstrate that it’s in for the long haul, however, and is using its financial muscle to put down roots in the country to assuage twitchy regulators. As well as pledging to build two facilities, the company pumped $ 1 billion into Uber-rival Didi Chuxing (which subsequently merged with its frenemy). That sort of cash should go some way in easing the fears of officials who want to protect local companies, which is one of the reasons China banned the iTunes Movie and iBooks stores earlier this year.

Source: VentureBeat

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