Every summer the wizards at Google put on their development conference called Google I/O. Since 2008 they have been showing off many of their key new technologies not just in a informational event but in an amazing hands-on 2 day conference. While there are tons of amazing technology sessions lasting the length of the conference, the keynote kicks off the event and showcases some of the best features of the new technologies being released.
Google is known for many things, but what got them started was search. Google still reigns supreme in the search field but is expanding what methods you can conduct your searches. Over the last two years Google and Apple both have greatly expanded the capabilities of using your voice to search. Google gave the statistic that in the US 20 percent of searches are done with voice. That is an astounding number if you think of how much people use Google for searching.
The key to improving searching and figuring out what you are really searching for takes more than just the terms that you are searching for. Google utilizes “Machine Learning” to improve and enhance your searches, using information Google has learned about you as well as your current location to give you results that are the most fitting. In the keynote this was shown how Google Image Search has been greatly improved by using machine learning to glean the content of photos. If you use Google Photos, searches will now include your own photo results, i.e. if you search for “hugs” you will see your own photos with people hugging in them.
While all this sounds great and search results are helpful, Google wants to take this a step further. Google wants to help you “Get Things Done!” The key is specific actionable items such as purchasing movie tickets to theaters nearby, making reservations at a nearby restaurant, and locating related content to what you are already viewing.
Bringing all of Google’s search expertise together is the new “Google Assistant“. There are many ways to interact with the Google Assistant, the easiest being voice. This builds upon the existing “Hey Google” functionality, and adds a more conversational nature to queries. Allowing you to ask Google if your favorite sports team won their game, then the key player on your team, and ask for highlight videos all keyed off the original “favorite team” without having to restate that every time you search.
To have access to the new Google Assistant everywhere, Google is releasing a new device called “Google Home” which is quite similar to Amazon’s Echo. Google Home is a sleek, stylish, in-home device that is designed for any room. It features customizable fabric or metal bases. And a size-able speaker to respond conversationally to any of your questions or commands, as well as be a great music player. Not only does it feature Google Assistant, but it allows you to get things done with home automation featuring Nest, control your array of ChromeCast devices, and control your other bluetooth speakers so you can jam out across the whole house.
Google stated that almost 50 percent of notifications on Android are from messaging apps. Google has many approaches to messaging already but wants to bring two new ones to the table to help you communicate in quick new ways.
The first of which is “Allo“, a smart messaging app based on your phone number so you can easily connect to all of your existing contacts. It draws on their experience with Hangouts and brings many of the similar features but ties in with the new Google Assistant as well. For instance if you are chatting with friends on a Friday afternoon about plans for that evening and someone suggests Italian food, the Google Assistant will bring up info cards nearby Italian restaurants that anyone in the chat can click on. If you say ok let’s do Cucina it will select that restaurant and show available reservation times based on the number of participants in the chat. Then right in chat you can choose a time and confirm your reservation. Allo also features an “Incognito Mode” that boasts end-to-end encryption and message expiration for all your secretive needs.
The second app in Google’s messaging arsenal is “Duo”, a video companion to Allo, much akin to existing Google Hangouts or Facetime. A key feature to Duo however is live call previewing, in which you can see live video from the person calling you, making you want to answer up the call even more. Duo also features end-to-end encryption. Both Duo and Allo will be available soon for both Android and iOS.
Google showcased the next upcoming version of the Android operation system, codenamed “Android N.” For the official name Google is having a naming contest which anyone can participate in. Google of course reserves the right to not pick your choice, as they said we won’t be naming it “Namey McNameface.” Some highlights of Android N:
- Improved graphics performance with Vulkan
- New JIT(Just In Time) compiler for faster app installs, and 50% less compiled code storage
- Security improvements – File based encryption, media framework hardening, direct boot
- Dual system images for seamless upgrades, no more “Android is Upgrading” popup that took forever
- Multitasking, double tap the switcher button to switch to the last app you just used, tap and hold to do split-screen with apps, and a new Picture-in-Picture mode for Android TV for apps.
- Notifications, any app can now do quick reply right from the notification, long press on notifications to change the visibility for that app.
- Unicode-9 Emojis featuring multiple skin-tones and professional women emojis
Close in line with Android N is Google’s new Virtual Reality platform, “Daydream.” Daydream is a multi-faceted approach to bring VR to millions of users through, Daydream Certified Devices, Daydream Headsets and Controllers, and Daydream specific Apps. Daydream will bring almost any content to life: watch a movie in a virtual movie theater, watch a youtube video in “interactive 3d”, and view apps in an all new Daydream VR UI. Daydream can work with any content and give you an immersive and unique virtual reality experience. For more information check out Daydream’s site.
How many times have you needed to download an app to look at a single piece of content or complete a single task, just to either uninstall it or leave it at the end of your list of installed apps? Google apparently thought this was too much and an amazing new feature for Android that no one saw coming. “Android Instant Apps” allows you to run an app instantly via the Google Cloud for things such as viewing embedded content, viewing a single store item, navigating an interactive map, or in their nifty example paying for a parking meter. Apps are setup with “modules” that can be quickly streamed down to a device. It is still a real native app with all the features you would expect. And to really put the icing on the cake, it works all the way back to Android Jellybean (4.1). You really have to see it to believe it.
For all things I/O 2016 and tons of informational videos check out https://events.google.com/io2016/