As the new school year gets off the ground, Google has updated Docs with a number of features that should help students be more productive and efficient. On Wednesday, Google introduced voice transcription, research capabilities, simpler data visualization tools, and Microsoft Office-style templates, along with the ability to take surveys and more easily check who recently edited a file.
In a blog post, Google wrote that the new updates are largely aimed at teachers and students. The company also unveiled a new Chrome extension for its Classroom product, which lets teachers share a webpage with an entire classroom of students, regardless of what laptop they are using.
The voice transcription and data visualization features are the most interesting pair in the suite of new tools Google has added. In a very informal trial run conducted by yours truly, the transcription service was more than proficient–recognizing proper names of celebrities and random individuals, understanding geographic locations, and rapidly interpreting sentences. That said, it still seems faster to manually write longer pieces of content due to the limitations of the technology.
There’s also another reason why Google is releasing this particular functionality right now: With the release of Windows 10, Microsoft has started aggressively pushing its rival platform, Office 365, to users of the new operating system. While Office has a lock on the enterprise market, Google Docs is extremely popular among students due to its price tag (read: it’s free); introducing these features is, for Google, a savvy business move that should further secure its core audience.