Google I/O 2016 Heralds Diverse Software Products, Dev Tools
Google I/O 2016 Heralds Diverse Software Products, Dev Tools
Google debuted new consumer apps and services, enterprise apps, developer tools and services, and guidance on what the company is working on for the future.
Google Assistant Will Help Run People's Lives
Google Assistant is a Siri-like app that can move from device to device (including iOS devices), following its owner like a personal butler or lady-in-waiting to answer questions or perform research. Google is combining its longtime research and productizing of items, such as natural language understanding and translation, search, voice recognition, text-to-speech processing, deep analytics and dozens of others to make Assistant possible. As each command is made, Assistant remembers it and stores it away for future reference; the app gets smarter with each interaction and becomes better at predicting commands.
Google Home Will Challenge Amazon Echo
Although it looks like Google Vice President of Product Management Mario Queiroz is hoisting a brew in this photo, he's really demonstrating Google Home. This is a decorative new "member of the family" device that uses Assistant to perform home tasks, such as controlling lights, heat and security (via Google Nest); playing music or TV; answering reference questions; fetching personal information (restaurant reservations, transportation, waiting calls, for example) and a score of other activities. It will compete with Amazon Echo for the home device-control market.
Allo Messaging Will Compete With Facebook Messenger
Allo is a new messaging service that will compete head-on with Facebook's Messenger and other messaging services to enable users to chat, share photos and videos, order products and services, and perform a list of other functions from any device in real time.
Duo Video Calling Sets Itself Apart From the Pack
Duo Video Calling is a caller ID of sorts that enables callers to see who's calling before deciding whether to answer the call, among other new features. Duo is a simple, fast one-to-one video calling app for everyone—whether Android or iOS, a fast or slow connection, wherever users are. Like Allo, Duo is based on phone numbers, allowing users to reach anyone in their phone books. Its interface fades away when users are on a call.
Integration of Play Store, Chrome and Android Could Be Significant
Google is in the process of integrating its Play store and Android smartphone applications into Chrome OS and the popular Chromebook notebook PCs, so the same applications can be used from device to device. When users start realizing this, they may well swing away from conventional business productivity tools, such as Microsoft Office. By enabling Google Play apps to run on Chrome OS and Chromebooks, many more applications can run cross-platform on Chromebooks and improve their use for both entertainment and productivity.
Android VR Jumps Into a Hot Market
Google is still working on a headset design, which will be smaller and lighter than most already on the market. Its latest mobile operating system version, Android N, will come with a virtual reality mode that, for the first time, enables developers to build apps that fully support virtual reality. The company also unveiled Daydream, a new platform designed to create high-quality mobile VR experiences. Daydream will require smartphones with high-end specs, but Google said that it's working with device makers and app developers to create high-end VR experiences. LG, Samsung, HTC, Huawei, ZTE, Asus and Alcatel are currently building Daydream-ready phones.
Tensor Processing Unit (TPU) for Machine Learning Assistance
Google introduced a new chipset called Tensor Processing Unit (TPU), a custom application-specific integrated circuit (ASIC) for machine learning that fits in the same footprint of a hard drive. TPUs are custom ASICs that Google built specifically for machine learning—and tailored for TensorFlow, an open-source library for machine learning. Google has been running TPUs inside its data centers for more than a year and has found them to deliver an order of magnitude-better optimized performance per watt for machine learning, said Urs Hölzle, Google's senior vice president for technical infrastructure.
Firebase Analytics: Free for Dev Usage
The Firebase Analytics engine on the Google Cloud Platform is a free and unlimited analytics solution providing developers with unlimited reporting for up to 500 distinct events that can be defined using the Firebase SDK (software development kit). Firebase Analytics reports help users understand how users behave, which enables informed decisions regarding app marketing and performance optimizations.
Android OS Gets 'Deep Surgery,' Devs Get 'N'
Android N underwent some "pretty deep surgery" in its update, Google Android Vice President of Engineering Dave Burke said. Google focused on three key themes: performance, productivity and security. The first Developer Preview introduced a brand-new JIT compiler to improve software performance, make app installs faster and take up less storage. The second N Developer Preview included Vulkan, a new 3D-rendering API to help game developers deliver high-performance graphics on mobile devices.
Android Wearables Get an Upgrade
Google described Android Wear 2.0 as its "most significant" Android Wear update since the launch two years ago. The wearable operating system comes with a bundle of new features that include more watchfaces, enhanced support for messaging and the ability for apps to run natively on the device. Google says the operating system will improve battery life and even include handwriting recognition. Android Wear 2.0 devices will be available this fall.
Driverless Cars on Display
Google I/O 2016 would certainly not be complete without frequent driverless car sightings, and there were plenty of them. Google touched on Android Auto, touting the platform's upcoming support for Waze, the crowd-sourced mapping application Google bought in 2013 for $1 billion. Android Auto has added better support for voice commands and will work wirelessly using WiFi in compatible cars. Google says that it expects Android Auto to expand to 200 car models by the end of 2016.