The tech community was waiting with bated breath ahead of this year’s Google I/O event, but I don’t think anyone expected it to be quite as action-packed as it was. Google covered so much during this year’s big Google I/O 2016 keynote, and even though we were already expecting much of what was covered, there were definitely a few surprises in store. In fact, aside from the famous Larry Page speech at Google I/O 2013, this was easily the best show in years.
Let’s go over all of the biggest announcements from the Google I/O 2016 keynote.
Welcome to the next generation of search.
Google search changed the world, literally. Now, Google Assistant is the natural extension of search, supporting “conversational understanding” to make search more natural and to better support voice searches. Say something like “What time is the Yankee game tonight?” and the conversation doesn’t have to end there. Continue by saying “Who’s the starting pitcher?” and Google’s next-generation search will continue the conversation without skipping a beat. That’s just one little example — the possibilities are practically endless.
Learn more about Google Assistant right here.
Google’s Amazon Echo competitor surprised no one since we all knew it was coming due to leaks, but that doesn’t make it any less impressive.
The Google Home speaker will be released later this year, and it will service as a portal into the Google Assistant experience. It will also let you control connected devices within the home, and you’ll be able to cast content with the speaker as well. Say “play Fast and Furious on my TV” and the movie will appear on your screen.
The entire experience is hands-free, powered entirely by voice. In fact, it doesn’t even have any buttons. Simple voice commands will control every aspect of the Home, as is the case with the Amazon Echo. Home even integrates with third-party services, allowing you to do things like call an Uber car or book a restaurant reservation using OpenTable.
Check out our earlier post to find out more about Google Home.
Meet Google’s new messaging app, Allo.
Google has fallen way behind top rivals like Facebook in the messaging space. Allo is the company’s new offering that includes a number of features Google hopes will help set its new app apart.
For example, the app has a whisper/shout feature that changes the size of the text you send using a slider to help communicate volume. Want to “yell” something? This feature lets you enlarge the text instead of using caps. Feel like “whispering” instead? Shrink text down with the same slider.
Another cool feature is smart replies, which create canned responses that evolve over time based on your conversations. Smart replies are even generated in response to photos thanks to Google’s photo analysis capabilities.
Also included, of course, is bot support. From right within the app, users can interact with a wide range of bots. For example, an OpenTable bot will allow users to choose a restaurant and book a reservation without ever leaving an Allo chat. And of course, there’s also a Google Assistant search bot. Want to search for a cute cat GIF from within a chat? No problem.
Lastly, Allo includes an incognito mode. All Allo chats are encrypted but incognito mode offers end-to-end encryption and an option to send messages that self-destruct. Additionally, once you close a chat, the entire conversation is deleted forever.
The app launches this summer on Android and iOS, and you can check out our earlier coverage for more details on Allo.
Duo is Google’s companion app for Allo that adds in video calling. And yes, it has some very nifty new features.
For example, Knock Knock lets users see the incoming video call feed before even answering the call. This way, the receiving party can see who’s calling and where they are before they even pick up the call.
Duo also switches seamlessly between cellular and Wi-Fi connections, and it manages video and audio in real-time to adjust quality on the fly when available bandwidth increases or decreases.
Like Allo, Duo launches this summer on both Android and iOS. Learn more right here.
Google’s next major mobile software release is Android N, and it’s going to be a huge update when it’s released later this year.
Performance and graphics improvements are a big part of Android N, which is extremely important when you consider how much smoother iOS still is despite all of the multi-core processors and gobs of RAM on leading Android phones. Vulcan is the software that powers these improvements on the graphics side, while a series of software optimizations boost performance elsewhere.
Android N also introduces file-based encryption instead of block-based encryption. This is a much more secure method, and it’s just one way Android N is more secure than earlier versions.
Most impressively perhaps, Android N will download and install system updates automatically.
Moving on to the app switcher screen, Android will automatically remove apps from the UI when it determines the app is no longer needed. This way, the app switcher UI is decluttered and it’s easier to find the app you’re looking for. There’s also a new quick switch function accessed by double-tapping the recents button on a phone or tablet.
N’s window management framework has also been redesigned to support both split-screen apps (side by side) and picture in picture (a small windows in the corner of the screen). The former will work across phones and tablets while the latter is for Android TV only.
Where notifications are concerned, Android N has a new direct reply feature that lets users reply to messages right from the notification. Unicode 9 emoji will also be supported in Android N, complete with support for all skin tones.
Android N will be released to the public later this summer, but a beta has already been pushed out. Check out more details in this post and you can find out how to download and install the Android N beta right here.
Virtual reality is a huge component of Android N, and the new VR platform is called Google Daydream.
At its core, Daydream is an optimized virtual reality platform that aims to standardize the mobile-based VR experience. It also spans both software and hardware; Google is making a reference design for a VR headset and a controller, and it’ll sell them directly beginning in the late summer.
Learn more about Google’s big VR push in this post.
Android Wear 2.0
Android Wear has had a bumpy ride thus far, but Google will look to give its wearables platform a big shot of adrenaline with version 2.0.
The big news here is that Android Wear 2.0 can function independently of a smartphone. So for example, apps no longer need a connected smartphone in order to function. With a phone completely powered off or even left behind, apps can function and even communicate without a phone, as long as the wearable device is connected to the internet via cellular or Wi-Fi.
Android Wear 2.0 details can be found right here.
If you stuck with the keynote all the way to the end, you saw a preview of one of the coolest advancements in app distribution technology since Apple first launched the App Store. With Instant Apps, users can begin using an app instantly from right within the Google Play store without even having to download and install the app.
It’s pretty crazy tech, and you can read more about it in this post.