GU Tech Society brings Google to campus

Makhib Choudkhuri

The Google Developer Festival held by the Glasgow University Tech Society on the November 18 was a fantastic insight into a mixture of a variety of technologies. Over the course of the day multiple speakers from Google, along with freelancers and technology experts, came to talk about the latest progress in the cyber world. It started with a breakfast of croissants, fruit and tea, before our first speaker.

The opening talk was about Flutter – a revolutionary mobile development platform that makes the web browsing experience much faster. Mr Kulinski spoke about how technology can become redundant in about ten years of use, before newer, more ambitious, ideas are implemented.

The next presentation was about the Google Apps Script. Mr Hawksey talked about the usefulness of add-ons for programs like Gmail. If you are sending a mass email, for example, you can use an add-on which implements mail merge. Automating tasks are just touching the surface of what can be used, for absolutely free, by anyone.

After a lunch of pizza, the third speaker, Mr Sillars, a world-travelling freelancer, spoke about data usage in video-streaming. Many video-hosting sites like YouTube use similar data management techniques, however for most other websites, the data used per video can vary greatly. The same clip on different sites can use 600MB of data, or just 114MB, with a few technical changes, with minimal loss of quality.

The fourth speaker spoke about AI, specifically chatbots. Ms Cavallaro showed how simple it is, using a programme like Dialogflow, to create an online chat bot that can deal with simple tasks like “Where is my order?”. This can make customer service much simpler and can automate responses to minor queries. Maybe the next time you contact a company, you’ll be talking to a bot!

The penultimate talk was one of the most anticipated of the day, covering DeepMind and reinforcement machine learning. This is where a computer is able to be programmed to learn and develop its own skills. In a robotics experiment, after a few hours, the robot combined with a DeepMind program was able to insert a pole into a hole, even if the hole kept moving, much like a human is able to do. In the healthcare world, this application is starting to be used to analyse images of the backs of human eyes to identify risks of developing diabetes and heart disease.

The final talk of the day was about google site engineers and their role in the company. These are people who maintain the smooth running and performance of the search engine and its associated products. The engineers play games like “zombie outbreak” where they analyse what might happen if a big city suddenly had their internet cut off. The engineers predict ways in which the website can go down and preemptively create solutions, hence why google runs so smoothly.

The event showed the interesting technical side of the things we use every day. GUTechSoc organised a wonderful event – the food, free t-shirts and, most importantly, the variety of talks helped to create an event anyone with a technical interest could engage with.


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