Usually a conference for computer programmers or app developers isn’t what everyday users will find exciting. But Google’s annual I/O conference is always worth looking out for.
Google, after all, is one of the most exciting companies in the tech world, and whether you like it or not, it will play a huge part in our daily lives, if not already. Beyond computers, smartphones, and wearables, technology is changing life as we know it, and Google intends to be in the thick of it.
At Google I/O 2016, we saw a glimpse of how it intends on living up to that promise. Here are our favorite announcements from the two-hour keynote address.
It’s only fitting to start with Google Assistant. At first, it felt like an upgrade to Google Now, which, sadly, is best described as Google’s version of Siri. Except that Google Now is leaps and bounds better and smarter than Siri. And Google Assistant, theoretically better than Google Now.
Google says it wants to evolve search and make it more assistive, and soon you’ll find Google Assistant built into a variety of Google products, both software and hardware. There’s much to say about it, but it’s best that you watch the video below.
Thank God I haven’t bought an Amazon Echo yet. The cylindrical device is all the rage these days, and it has blown up way beyond even what Amazon ever imagined.
What’s the fuss about? At its core, Echo is a bluetooth speaker with built-in sensors and a microphone. But it’s more than that — it’s a voice-controlled hub for your home. It connects to a variety of home devices you can control by issuing voice commands.
It’s pretty darn amazing, and very easily the wave of the future. Remember how a couple of years ago everyone was talking about The Internet of Things? I believe devices such as these are what’s needed to bring it all together and make IoT a reality for everyone.
At I/O, Google generously recognized the innovations Amazon has been making in this space, and then announced Google Home, their take on Echo. What will set Home apart is Google Assistant integration, which lets you harness the power of Google’s deep machine learning to accomplish a myriad of tasks.
It’s only a matter of time till VR content becomes as ubiquitous as photos and video. There are now plenty of VR cameras and VR headsets on offer. Facebook is also pushing for 360-degree video heavily. For its part, Google says the next version of Android will use a new standard called Daydream and will introduce new VR features to phones that support them.
Do we really need another messaging app? Google believes so.
Coming this summer to iOS and Android devices, the app called Allo can do everything every other popular messaging app already do. You can send text, photos, video, and of course, stickers. Security nerds can go into Incognito Mode to encrypt chats, and like Snapchat you can also set a time frame, after which your message disintegrates into digital dust.
Google says it’s introducing a new way to shout and whisper by allowing users to slide their fingers to increase the size of text messages. Large fonts equals shouting, tiny fonts equals whispering.
But what’s most interesting about Allo is Smart Reply, which lets you respond to messages without typing a single word. For example, when your friend sends you a photo of a dog, the app is smart enough to know what’s in the picture. Allo will then immediately suggest replies like “Awwww” or “Cute.”
You can also summon Google Assistant while discussing dinner plans with your significant other, and it can help you find a restaurant and book a table, all from the chat window.
Google is taking on Apple’s FaceTime with its own video-calling app. Sure, Google still has Hangouts – and to be honest, we’re not sure if that app is going away.
What will set Duo apart from FaceTime is that it’s multiplatform, meaning it will work on iOS and Android so you can call your iOS friends and vice versa. Also unique to Duo is a feature called Knock Knock that shows you a live preview of the person calling, even before you pick it up.
It sounds a bit creepy at first, especially if you don’t want to answer the call. Thankfully, the other person can’t see you until you pick up. Still, we can imagine instances where the circumstances of the call will make you want to answer it ASAP.
For the first time ever, Google is crowdsourcing the name of its next Android version. Recall that previous versions of Android are named after a tasty treat. The most recent (in order of release) being Jellybean, KitKat, Lollipop, and Marshmallow.
N is next in line, and the possibilities are endless. Instead of announcing a name at the keynote address, as they sometimes do, Google is giving all of us an opportunity to join the brainstorming process. If you have a few ideas in mind, visit android.com/n to submit them. Or take a look at our suggestions.