For the past 10 years, Google has held an annual developer conference in San Francisco. Even though Google IO is mainly for developers, it is still good for those interested in technology to see what advancements Google has made and what products will be coming soon from the tech giant.
From the 2 hour keynote presentation, a number of new apps, OS features and products were announced. Here are the highlights from that keynote.
Google Assistant is the evolution of Google Now, that is currently available on Android and iOS. It uses machine learning and artificial intelligence benefits from over 10 years of developement and building of the natural language processing technology to allow two-way conversations with Google. You could do this to a certain extent with Google Now but Google want to take this a step further. They want to allow their customers to talk to Google, to help you get things done. An example was given were Google’s CEO wanted to book cinema tickets for the evening. Google Assistant not only showed him some relevant films for the evening but then he told Google he wanted to take the kids, so it showed child friendly films and then went onto book tickets on his behalf. Google want to put this technology into many of its products, some of which are new and they also announced these on stage.
Google Home is a voice-activated product that sits discretely in any room in your home. Google Assistant is at the heart of Home and brings it to these rooms and allows you to ask it questions, play music or send video to your TV and not only that, you can use it with your other home automaton products to set your thermostat or turn on your lights. It can also blend into the room with a choice of interchangeable bases.
Allo and Duo are Google’s new communications apps. Allo integrates the Google Assistant and is a new messaging app similar to Facebook’s Messenger where you can have group chats or one to one chats but because it adds the new Google Assistant, it can even help you with suggested replies or it can help you with restaurant choices and check your diary if your conversation goes that way. Another neat feature is the Whisper/Shout function, where you can shrink or increase the size of the message bubble you are about to send to convey a tone.
Duo is a companion app for one to one video calls which is meant to be extremely efficient and more reliable, even on slower data networks. It also has a feature where you can see the video feed of the person who is trying to call before you answer. It’s unclear why Allo and Duo are separate apps although that would make an app like that very similar to Google’s current messaging app, Hangouts which they also intend to continue to offer. To use either of the new apps, all you need is a mobile phone number and it works across Android and iOS. Both apps will be available during the summer months.
Android N is the next version of Android which we already knew but it still doesn’t have an official name or number. At Google I/O, they announced you can suggest the name for the next version here. Android N will include better performance for graphics and effects, reduce battery consumption and storage along with background downloads for system updates and a streamlined notification bar. You can also download the new public Beta version of Android N if you have one of the newer Google Nexus devices.
Another big feature in Android N is Daydream, Google’s answer to mobile VR. The likes of Samsung are already offering this through their apps and skins but Daydream is part of the phone’s operating system. Google is working with manufacturers to ensure devices are up to the task of running a smooth VR experience and these will become Daydream Certified. Apps like YouTube, Street View, Google Play Movies and Google Photos will also be coming to Daydream and they will also be releasing a VR Headset and controller which will be coming towards the end of the year.
Android Instant Apps was also a big feature to be announced which allows you to run parts of apps that you don’t have installed on your phone. Google gave a good example of this were you might be looking for a new camera. You can see a link in your search results for a camera you like through B&H Photo. You may not have their app on your phone but you may wish to see more info about the camera and maybe even purchase it. Normally you would click through to the website, login and maybe purchase the camera but soon, you will be able to open the link and instead of downloading the B&H app from the Google Play Store, your phone will download the components needed to view the product page and to use their checkout were you can buy the products using Android Pay and once you have finished, the components are removed. This is a great feature which I know many people including myself will use, as sometimes you just want to make one off purchases and this makes everything easier.
So those are the highlights. Not actually mentioned in the keynote but definitely worth a mention is the fact that Google Chrome OS will soon support the Google Play Store. This really opens up what you can do on a Chromebook allowing you access to all the apps you currently enjoy on your Android phone or tablet. Only certain Chromebooks will be able to take advantage of this to start off with but Google says they are working with manufacturers to offer new products that support this very soon.
So that’s it. Plenty of cool things to look forward to on your favourite and new devices from Google!