Strap yourself down, it’s a lot
Ealier this morning Google kicked their yearly developer conference, I/O, with a bang. In typical Google fashion the company announced several new features that won’t just be relegated to Android N. So, let’s get started!
The biggest and most substantial announcement in I/O this year is Google Assistant. It’s the logical progression of Google Now, and while it does many of the same things that Now is capable of, Google Assistant is capable of recognizing and understanding context and the natural flow of language. It’s a conversational version of Google Now, and it’s the foundation of many of the features that the search giant announced earlier today. Ask it who the director of the Revenant is, and it’ll give you Alejandro González Iñárritu’s name. Follow up with “what awards has he won” and Google Assistant will give you a list of his accomplishments, since it now understands that you’re referring to Iñárritu.
Make no mistake – Google Home is the search company’s direct competitor to Amazon’s Echo. It utilizes Google Assistant and has access to Google’s entire knowledge graph, and works as the smart centerpiece in the home of tomorrow. There’s almost no physical buttons on this smart appliance, since everything is done via voice. It can control IoT appliances like speakers and TVs, and is smart enough to understand complex commands (play Drake’s Back to Back in the living room speakers), questions and can even manage your schedule for you.
Aside from a home appliance, Google’s also built a new messanging app to take advantage of the advances that they’ve done in machine language and learning. Dubbed Allo, it’s able to give quick, smart replies to conversations you have with friends. It’s even smart enough to identify photos that people post during conversations. It’s also smart enough to offer suggestions during conversations, offering restaurant suggestions depending on the type of food you’ve been talking about. Allo can also make restaurant bookings for you, or even book an Uber if you need to – all without leaving or closing the app.
Google’s other new app is called Duo, and is an enhanced video messaging app. It has a cool feature, called Knock Knock, which allows users to see whose calling on the other side of the line before you start talking, sort of like a digital peephole on your door. It’s also designed to scale intelligently with the quality of the network you’re on, which is extremely important on countries where the quality of mobile internet is woefully atrocious.
Probably the most impressive of all the announcements earlier today, Android Instant, in a nutshell, allows Android phones to run an app without actually installing it on your phone. It’s a great feature for people who want to check a certain portion of an app without completely installing because of space or data constraints. Google has found a way to modularize apps, so only certain modules will be downloaded by Google Play when accessing an app link. Crazy, huh?
VR is fast becoming the next digital battleground for tech companies, and Google isn’t going to be left behind. While the search giant experimented with VR with Cardboard, Daydream is the main platform for their VR push. It’s a standard that offers higher quality VR experiences, and Google has even come out with reference designs for both the headset and the accompanying Wiimote-like controller for it.
While Daydream support will be baked into Android N, only certain smartphones that have specialized sensors will be able to use it. Manufacturers like Huawei, Samsung and others will have Daydream-ready phones later this year.
Android Wear 2.0
It’s been two years since Google announced Android Wear, their own wearable standard, and today Android Wear gets a significant update. Users will now be able to pipe in data from their favorite apps directly on to the watch face, which gives users more glancable information without having to muck around in the UI. Google’s knowledge graph and Smart Reply tech will also be baked into the new update, allowing you to quickly respond to messages without having to dictate a long reply. Speaking of replies, Android Wear 2.0 now has handwriting recognition that allows wearers to scratch out responses on the display of their smart watches.
There’s also smart activity recognition built into Android Wear 2.0, which detects certain activities like running and biking automatically. This in turn turns on certain apps like Strava, all without user intervention.
Android N takes a back seat this year since it’s already been released earlier by Google in the form of a Developer Preview build. There’s a few new N-related announcements though – Google is now allowing the public to have a hand in naming the next iteration of Android (just don’t name it Namy Mcname Face, please). There’s also a new built-in solution for running multiple apps on the screen, enhanced graphics and runtime frameworks via the new graphic API Vulkan. Google also called the newest release of N beta quality, which means it’s stable enough to be used on your Nexus device as a daily driver.
And that’s it! By the way, here’s one of the vlogs of Unbox EIC Carlo Ople who’s currently at the Google Campus covering Google I/O live. Enjoy!