1. Assistant and Home: The I/O keynote started with Sundar Pichai talking about how Google Search and smart search results has made information more accessible. Improving on this, Pichai announced ‘Google Assistant’, a context-aware AI personal assistant that is always available to you through your phone and Google Home. Google Home is inspired by Amazon’s Echo which uses Alexa (a voice activated AI assistant) to answer queries and perform tasks. Home, which is a physical product that you’ll keep in your house, is both customisable and personal, and it runs Assistant.
Assistant will roll out soon, through Allo first and then through Home which is coming later this year.
Allo and Duo: Google set out to re-build the messaging app and video calls app. First up, Allo is a messaging app that’s just like many others. You can chat with people personally or in groups, and conversations are encrypted. What’s unique with Allo is the fact that it has Google Assistant built right in, so that you can ask it to perform tasks in a personal conversation, or also call it in the middle of an ongoing conversation to pull information from the web. For example, you are planning to go on a dinner with your friend. While in the chat on Allo, you can type “@google Show Italian restaurants” to bring up the usual card view of Italian restaurants around you, just like on Google web search. Now, you can follow up by conversing with the assistant to book a table at a particular restaurant, and Assistant will do it for you through a service like OpenTable. Remember, all this has happened right inside Allo, right inside the conversation with your friend. No more spending time going back and forth to your browser or apps to achieve the same task!
Allo also smartly suggests responses by reading the conversation above (again, understanding context!). So when your friend send you a picture of a bowl of pasta, Allo will scan the picture and learn that it is pasta, then understand from your previous interactions with Assistant that you like pasta, and suggest a reply like “Yummy” with an emoji.
Both Allo and Duo will be available on Android and iOS this summer.
Features like split screen multitasking (and picture-in-picture on Android TV) and notification panel improvements were already discussed a few months ago because of the Android N developer preview, and you can read about them here.
Virtual Reality and Daydream: Google was the first to introduce VR to the general public through Cardboard two years ago. Now, virtual reality will be an integral part of Android N, with support for full System UI and notifications in VR. In order to make VR more accessible and powerful, Google introduced Daydream. Daydream focuses on both hardware and software aspects of VR, providing an end-to-end solution. On the hardware side of things, Google announced that phones will be rated 'Daydream Ready’ if they have better specs than a general spec sheet required for VR to work readily. Google is also providing a general schematic of a VR headset and controller to simplify headset design and make it compatible with Daydream.
Daydream is what ‘Android VR’ could have been, but is a rather toned down version of it. Daydream compatible products, including phones and headsets are coming this fall.
A developer version of Android Wear 2.0 is out for download, with the final release expected in a few months.
Developer Products: Google I/O, being a developer conference, is the obvious place for Google to share updates in the development space. This year, Google talked about 'progressive mobile apps’, which where links on a browser optimised to work like apps, and Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) to create web apps that load almost instantly. Android Studio, which is the go-to IDE for Android app development, got many small but important updates such as improved speed, a 3x faster emulator, C++ and Java8 compatibility and a code inspector to resolve issues.
And there you go! Those were the seven biggest releases and updates from Google I/O 2016. Sundar Pichai concluded the keynote by taking about the Google Cloud Platform to power Artificial Intelligence systems. He considered the potential of AI deep learning systems helping in all aspects of the world and commented...
“…now consider what the best climate change researchers, doctors, or educators can do with the power of machine learning assisting them.”
Google’s I/O keynote this year has been full of examples that’ll make you smile. Rather than focusing on a small number of products in Google’s arena, Google took a holistic approach and a bold intention to show the world that they are still ruling the Internet-connected world.
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