Google I/O 2013: First Looks: Updates for Android, Gaming, Dev Tools

By Todd R. Weiss  |  Posted 2013-05-15

Google I/O 2013: First Looks: Updates for Android, Gaming, Dev Tools

Google's sixth annual I/O Developers Conference opened today with a host of innovations and announcements for lovers of Android, mobile games, app development, maps, search and much more.

In one of the biggest announcements, the search giant unveiled a first-ever Google Play music subscription service that allows users to access all the music in Google's collection on the fly and add it to their personal collections.

Also announced were new Google Play game saving and sharing services, new APIs for Android that allow developers to create apps that can be restricted to specific locations, and developer tools that will help them improve the sales and marketing of their apps for Android.

All the details were announced in a three-hour opening keynote session that was Webcast live from the Moscone Center in San Francisco.

The new Google Play "All Access" music subscription service was unveiled by Chris Yerga, engineering director for Android. All Access allows users to bring their personal digital music collections together with a Google service that will make additional recommendations based on their existing collections.

"All Access is a unique Google approach to music subscription services," said Yerga. Using its "Explore" interface, users can review 23 top-level music genres to find new music to hear and collect, and they can listen to it immediately by tapping on a selection.

Users can even create a "radio station" on their device using All Access, which will mix related tracks and let them see what songs are coming up next. If they like the songs, users can keep them and change the order of the tracks, and if they don't like them, they can swipe the songs away, said Yerga.

"This is radio without rules," he said. "It's as lean back as you want to or as interactive as you want."

All Access is priced at $9.99 per month, but subscribers who sign up before June 30 can get it for $7.99 per month, said Yerga. Google is also offering a free 30-day trial for the service, which will work on smartphones, tablets and through Web browsers. The service is launching in the United States today and will be rolled out over time to other nations.

These kinds of new Android services are being expanded as the audience for Android is continuing to grow, said Sundar Pichai, Google's senior vice president of Chrome and Apps, during the keynote. As of this month, Google Android has now been activated on 900 million mobile devices, up from 400 million one year ago, said Pichai.

Google Games Innovations

As the demands for mobile game play continues, Google is working to give app developers more tools to build games that users will want to play, Hugo Barra, Google's product manager for Android, said during the keynote.

To help bring innovations in mobile games, several new APIs for Google Play Game Services were unveiled, including a Cloud Save API that lets players save their game progress so they can return to the same place later; an Achievements API that marks player progress; and a Leaderboard API to track the progress of players. Also being launched is a Multiplayer API that will allow players to use Google+ to find and invite new opponents, said Barra. All of the new APIs are being launched for Android and for iOS and Web players to allow cross-platform gaming, he said.

Google I/O 2013: First Looks: Updates for Android, Gaming, Dev Tools

A live demonstration of the capabilities didn't work during the keynote, which Barra attributed to networking problems that often arise inside the cavernous Moscone Center.

"There are actually lots of games launching today with many of these capabilities that we are talking about," he said.

New Location APIs Announced

At the conference, Barra also highlighted three new location APIs aimed at allowing developers to build more location-based features into their apps.

The APIs, all part of Google Services, are a Fused Location Provider API, which makes determining user locations faster and more accurate while using far less power than existing APIs; a Geofencing API that allows developers to limit the use of an app within certain physical boundaries; and an Activity Recognition API, which lets users track their physical activities.

App developers are also getting some innovative new tools that are being added to the Google Play Developer Console, which was unveiled at I/O 2012, said Ellie Powers, Google's product manager for Android. The additional tools, which came in to Google as suggestions from developers, are aimed at helping app developers gain new users and revenue from their Android apps, said Powers.

The new tools also include a tab where apps are analyzed in the console and given optimization tips to try to help developers make their products more popular, such as adding screen shots of an app so that buyers can see how it will look on a tablet.

Another key new tool in the console is an App Translation Service, which helps developers find affordable options to get their apps professionally translated into other languages for increased sales.

"It used to be a lot of work to find a translator for your apps," said Powers. The new service displays several translation vendors that can be hired to translate the code in the apps in about a week.

Watch Live Video of I/O Events

The Google I/O conference continues through May 17 with a wide range of daily training sessions and code sessions where developers can get help with their projects, answers for code questions, and input and additional eyes on the work they are doing using Google code. More than 120 talks, ranging from introductory topics to advanced subjects about Google Maps, Android, Google Chrome, Google+, App Engine, Google Glass and more, will be featured in the technical sessions, according to Google.

Also to be shown and shared with attendees at the conference are Google's Street View Trekker and SVII cameras, which Street View teams are using to collect the amazing images being gathered for the project from around the world. The Trekker camera is a backpack-mounted camera that is helping to collect images in remote locations, including the Grand Canyon. Attendees will be able to try out the Trekker backpack on a virtual hike through the canyon.

At the 2012 I/O Conference last June, Google rolled out its Glass project, the latest Android Jelly Bean operating system, the Nexus 7 tablet and the Nexus Q Media Hub. The Nexus Q was a surprise announcement—an entirely new small, bowling-ball-shaped media hub for the home controlled by an Android tablet or smartphone. Enhancements to Jelly Bean included improved performance; added search capabilities; voice typing that could be done offline; and an improved notifications interface that lets users respond to calendar reminders, emails and texts without having to open each of those applications.

Individuals can watch live video of many of the sessions through Google Developers Live @ I/O, which is streaming many of the sessions and activities straight from Moscone Center to the Web. All the sessions will be available on Google Developers Live on YouTube after the conference.

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