Google I/O 2017 Showcased a Clearer, More-Focused Agenda for Google Products

Something was different about this year’s Google I/O; something special, perhaps even grounded. Its an event where we have come to expect moonshots and overly idealistic solutions to problems that do not exist or are grossly misrepresented, but that has changed.

Last year’s Google I/O was a turning point, moving towards a more mature and grown-up Google that shifted heavily towards AI and directly at consumers with products like Google Home and the Google Assistant. The shift was explicit, with Google’s Sundar Pichai stating they were transitioning from mobile to AI-first, signalling the priorities of years to come. However, as many heavy Google users know, last year was sort of a bust too. Products and services that were announced were not available for months, and even then they were half-baked, requiring months of use and updates before they became even remotely competitive. My Google Home is only just now becoming useful for things more than playing a random game, asking a basic question, or setting a kitchen timer. Allo and Duo are, well, Allo and Duo… and almost a year later are just getting things like chat-backup and the soon-to-be-released desktop client.

One of Google Assistants big announcements this year was keyboard input, a feature that should have been day-1 outside of the Allo application. Daydream and Android Instant apps both kind of stuttered out of the gate, only to be rekindled at this years I/O, and who can forget about Android Wear 2.0… one of the worst software update rollouts I have ever experienced. Don’t believe me? let this sink in: the Huawei Watch took 355 days to go from Developer Preview to full release. To put it bluntly; Google I/O 16’ was an event that felt like it was 6 to 12 months too early, and nearly every product announced suffered as a result. So what changed? More user focused and less idealistic products, less moonshots.

“Google I/O 17’ was the turning point”

Coming off I/O 16’ I was highly skeptical of what Google would announce, and if we would actually see much of it anytime soon; but I left pleasantly surprised. I/O 17’ was not perfect, but in many ways it signalled a company that was more in touch with its users and developers, focusing on real use cases for things it demonstrated.

Take for instance, my personal favorite part, the enhancements to Google Photos. Google Photos is already one of Google’s easiest to use and widely available products and instead of adding features that may have a “WOW” factor but little usability, they focused on real world scenarios and how to better fit their product into their users’ lives.I don’t think that there is a single person who won’t use at least one of the new features like “Suggested Sharing” which recommends sharing by figuring out who is in a photo. Many will remember a Google+ Events feature that enabled all photos taken at an event to automatically be shared with the group. Think of Suggested Sharing as a far more practical version of that, one that will continue to add to Google Photos usefulness. Shared Libraries and Photo Books are two other products that on the surface are not ground-breaking, but stands to further entrench the product into the lives of its more than 500 million monthly users. The Google Assistant and Google Home saw similar enhancements with useful, but not groundbreaking updates. Features like Google Lens, hands-free calling, proactive notifications, keyboard text input support, IFTTT-like Shortcuts, and the jaw dropping demonstration of Actions on Google for Google Assistant.

Android was not left out of the fray either, and while Android N was one of the best announcements from I/O 16’, Android O looks to be one of the most well thought-out and targeted releases in a while, with the immediate future of Android seemingly having no useless branches. Smart text selection improves on what is already the one of the most useful features on Android and Android Go helps bring usable performance to very low spec devices and is slated to follow full-scale Android releases, although time will tell if this actually remains true. More information was also provided as to how Google plans to support devices shipping with Android O outside of manufacturer and carrier changes, and even announced a new way to update display drivers through Google Play Services, updates that perfectly target issues that plague Android today.

Google is also focusing a lot of its energy on “vitals” to help improve battery life and performance by improving application launch times and restricting background tasks from errant programs. There’s also full support of the Kotlin programming language, an announcement that got the largest amount of applause from the developers in the crowd, and this does not even go into its AI and Machine Learning announcements and updates related to TensorFlow and its Cloud TPU’s. Android Wear and Android TV also got a breath of new life with the latter receiving a brand new and beautiful interface, one that I am very much enjoying on my nearly 3 year old Nexus Player, as well as Google Assistant features coming to it and the Google Cast platforms.


An article that dives into everything from this years Google I/O would be thousands of words and still could not cover all the announcements, changes, and improvements (we’ve tried), because of all the little tidbits scattered throughout every talk. While that could be said about every Google I/O this year was different; it was almost palatable. In its second year since the Alphabet transition, Google was streamlined its targeting of, what we call in customer service, “pain points”. They are no longer dancing around issues like security and updates and are hitting them head on by simplifying and surfacing their security methods and are improving the developer experience with better tools and support. Google is not perfect, far from it; for everything great that Android O looks to be, it also needs a lot of work before it is “primetime” ready.

But Google I/O 17’ was the turning point, in my mind, of Google from a company with scattered and splintered visions, to one with a more singular idea of making its services better for its users, instead of throwing more of them at the problem.


What do you think about Google’s shift with their 2017 I/O event? What are you looking forward to the most, and what do you dislike? Sound off in the comments!

A Summary of Google’s 101 Announcements at I/O 2017

The most anticipated event of the year for Android developers and Google fans is officially over. During the I/O 2017, Google announced many new features and improvements that should make their projects even better. Emily Wood, Google’s Manager of Global Communication and Public Affairs, published a blog post with all 101 announcements that took place in Mountain View, CA.

Google Assistant is the key player

A quick look at the list shows that Google’s main topics were Assistant, virtual reality and augmented reality technologies, and AI. We learned that Google brought its voice-enabled digital companion to iOS. The huge news is that Assistant is available on over 100 million devices around the world. To make it even more popular, Google is also expanding the program to phones that use Brazilian Portuguese, French, German and Japanese as their main language. Finally, Transactions and payments will also make their way to Assistant-compatible devices.

Google Home will also receive major updates. The first improvement worth mentioning is free-calling (landlines and mobile) that will soon be available via Google Home in the USA and Canada. Google Home is expanding and will soon be available in Australia, Canada, France, Germany and Japan. Finally, Bluetooth support will be added to the device, so users can stream their favorite music through the speakers. There are a lot of personal assistants available on the market, but those features certainly make Google Home one of the most appealing now.

Google Assistant and Google Home were discussed many times and had 23 announcements in total. It’s understandable that Google plans to improve those products to find more customers and push the tech world towards artificial intelligence. They can do better, though. According to statistics. Android is an operating system for over 2 billion devices. Those numbers are ruthless and show that Assistant is available on 5 percent of devices with Google’s OS. Google needs to expand availability to announce full success — availability is the biggest problem, as only a few countries can use all features that Google has to offer.

Virtual reality and augmented reality with major updates

Virtual and augmented reality are something that Google works on intensively. To that effect, more Daydream-ready phones are coming soon. Daydream will be compatible with the Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+, for example. LG’s next flagships will also be compatible as well as Motorola and ASUS handsets. Google is also making Daydream phone-free: it will soon support standalone VR headsets that don’t require a phone or PC. An Educational Daydream Elements (VR) application is also available in the Play Store.

The aforementioned standalone VR headsets will include WorldSense, a new technology that precisely tracks the movement without extra sensors. Google talked a bit about their Tango project too:  starting this summer, ASUS will start selling the ZenFone AR. One of the most exciting announcements is a new version of Euphrates, the latest release of Daydream. It will allow users to capture what they’re seeing and cast a virtual world right onto the screen for others to see the VR experience, in a social environment. It will be publicly available later this year.

There are also some improvements for developers., like Instant Preview, that reflects the changes on a headset in just a few seconds.

Other things are also important

Google highlighted the importance of machine learning and cloud services throughout the event. Smart Reply to Gmail on Android and iOS is already using machine learning for seamless responses. To make it even more efficient, Google announced the second generation Clout TPUs, and they will use them in the Google Compute Engine. Another announcement is TensorFlow Research Cloud, that is available for free to top researchers. Finally, the Google for Jobs is also using the machine learning to find the best job candidates.

One of the key products of previous I/O events, Google Photos, has over 500 million monthly users, uploading 1.2 billion photos and videos to Google Photos servers. An important feature that will soon roll-out is an ability to recognize the people on the photos and suggest to share photos with them. It’s indeed an interesting feature that might become quite popular. Users will also have an option to share the libraries with their friends or families. For instance, a husband can share the photos of the kids with his wife. Users can select whether they want to share the full library or just certain photos. Finally, physical photo books from Google are now available for $9.99 and $19.99 for soft or hard cover respectively. Availability is limited to the U.S. for now.

Android with minor improvements

A few years ago, when Lollipop had its announcement, Android was the main part of the conference. This year was a bit different, as Android O will not bring a ton of new features. Android O is more an evolution than revolution. We still don’t know the name or an exact premiere date, but there is a public beta available for supported devices. All changes are detailed here. Graphics drivers should also be updated through Play Store.

Kotlin is an alternative to Java

Of course, there are some interesting aspects worth mentioning. From a developer’s point of view, the most exciting news was the debut of Kotlin as an officially-supported programming language. The JetBrains’ product is already available in the canary channel of Android Studio, which also hits the version 3.0 available as a preview.

As always, Google plans to tackle battery life and performance. We don’t know much about it, but some applications will double their performance, according to Google, in certain usecases as well as improved launch speeds. Background  service restrictions also aim to improve battery life. The other interesting announcements are Google Play Protect, updated Find My Device, and Picture in Picture that will be available in Android O.

Android Go rescuing low-end devices, Android Wear updates

Google announced the Android Go program which seeks to optimize the system to run on low-end devices. Apart from code optimizations, the specially crafted version of the Play Store will suggest lite applications that should run smoothly on devices with limited RAM, and various UI changes (such as a less-resource intensive recents menu) will enable faster operation.

Android Wear has also been discussed. It’s an operating system of almost 50 different watches. Android Wear has the new partners, including the likes of Emporio Armani, Movado or New Balance. Google decided to open-source some libraries for developers to make app development simpler.

There are some minor updates to Google Play as the Play Console or the subscriptions dashboard.

While Android is extremely popular, Google has decided to focus on other products. We hope that O will be the most optimized version of the system as unfortunately, we have to wait at least a few months to see the official builds on first devices.

The list of announcements is really long, as there was no shortage of conferences this year. You can watch all of them on YouTube, and a full list of the announcements is available here.

What do you thing about this year’s I/O? Was it exciting? What do you look forward to the most? Let us know in the comments!


Source: Google

This Was Google I/O 2017

After three intense days of activity, Google I/O has wrapped for the year. Unlike last year, there wasn’t a slew of new announcements we couldn’t demo, but there were lots of updates to last year’s announcements. In some ways it felt a little like I/O 2016 revisited: Assistant hit iOS, Daydream standalone headsets are on the way, Google Home got new features, Android Instant Apps are now available for everyone, and so on. But what about the event itself? How did Google handle the criticisms of last year and was it any better this time around?

The answer is a resounding yes. For a variety of reasons, a lot of folks won’t ever get the chance to attend Google I/O in person. So we put together a short walkthrough video to give you a feel for what it’s like to be on the ground at the Shoreline Amphitheatre at the Mountain View Googleplex.

But what that video won’t show is the blazing sun, the energy and excitement of the attendees and the sense of community that permeates the entire space. As journalists we may be outside the core developer audience, but we orbit the same Google nucleus and enjoy the event in equal measure.

Chief among the issues with last year’s I/O was the question of seating. There was insufficient seating at sessions, no overflow spaces, and no reserved places. This year it was possible to reserve a seat for all sessions: so you knew ahead of time that you were either guaranteed a seat or that you’d have to take your chances with the standby line. The stages were huge with a lot of available seating and if you were unable to get in you could simply grab a patch of grass in the shade and watch the livestream.

The event itself was also a lot more polished. The Burning Man-esque vibe was absent this time around with a lot more focus put on the sessions, keynotes and office hours than on the festival atmosphere. For some this may have been a little disappointing, but for me it felt a lot more appropriate for the event.

The upshot of the lack of distractions was that the focus instead became the people – both Googlers and attendees – and the opportunities for them to meet one another and exchange ideas. There was also a lot more shaded areas for chilling out and catching up with people.

While lining up still typically occurred in the sun, which got increasingly hotter as the week progressed, the session lines moved very fast and at no time did I feel at risk of sun stroke like I did on the daily last year. Likewise, you could hardly walk ten meters without stumbling across a water station or bucket of icy cold drinks, so staying hydrated was a breeze.

At I/O 2017 it was also a lot easier to find stages, the food lines moved quickly thanks to pre-prepared plates (as opposed to ordering from disparate food trucks last year), there were stanchens for more orderly queueing and everywhere you looked were signs showing what was coming up next, what was inside or where to go for the thing you were after.

Across the board, everything felt much better organized and less slapped together this year. There was a nice parallel between seeing Google’s progress with managing the event as there was in hearing about its progress on the topic of each session. While Google still can’t do too much about the California heat in mid-May, it can be as prepared as best as possible (as can attendees).

All in all, there was a lot less to complain about this year, even if the major unexpected announcements were a little thinner on the ground. Google deserves a real pat on the back for sticking with Shoreline and for listening to the feedback from last year’s attendees. Google I/O 2017 is an event no one will forget, but this year it’ll be for all the right reasons.

If you weren’t able to make it to this year’s Google I/O, we wanted to give you a chance to own a limited edition piece of it. Watch the video above to find out what you can win and how to enter!

Google Is Working On A Chromebook Emulator to Test Android Apps on Large Screens

Google is working on an emulator that will allow developers to test their applications on large screens without an actual Chrome OS device. This plan was announced during Google I/O 2017.

Chromebooks are not as popular as Google would like them to be outside of education. Most developers focus on app development for phones and tablets but Google wants to change that lack of attention by giving them special tools. It’s some sort of encouragement to start optimizing apps for the new platform.

Most applications will already work on large screens. Nevertheless, Google would like to encourage developers to optimize the applications for a the better experience. Developers should move to API level 24 or later for their apps to take advantage of the latest windowing features.

Chromebooks are not the only Android/Chrome OS devices with larger screens. We have to mention the likes of Lenovo Yoga Book or Samsung DeX for the Galaxy S8 and S8+. With windowed apps on tablets, Android is seeing a lot more multi-tasking capabilities on bigger screens.

 

The emulator is expected to enter the development stage soon. It’s still in beta and under “heavy development”, but developers can already sign-up for early access. If you would like to participate, please use this link or scan the QR code above.


Source: 9to5 Google

Android O Users Will Update Graphics Drivers Through Play Store

During the Android Fireside Chat that took place at Google I/O 2017, a nice new feature was discussed. It was revealed that users of Android O will be able to update their graphics drivers through the Play Store. This might be one of the most exciting features of the upcoming Android.

We know very little about how Google and vendors plan to introduce this feature. However, this might be one of the first results of Project Treble. The team behind this project plans to focus on modularizing the components of Android and reduce the fragmentation. The new feature was announced by Googler Romain Guy during a Q&A.

The graphics drivers update would be possible only on new devices that will ship with Android O out-of-the-box. Older devices don’t have the required hardware and software to handle the update process without major issues. The vendor implementation level below the OS framework is supposed to contain device-specific low-level software, like drivers and binaries. To make the update process possible, the GPU driver must be modular or exist outside the layer. It’s surprising that Dave Burke didn’t mention this feature during the Keynote speech, and that Trebble in general hasn’t received much attention outside a few specific, smaller talks at I/O

What do you think of this solution? Is it a great idea or simple waste of resources? Share your thoughts in the comments.


Via: Android Police