Google I/O 2016: our early predictions for Google’s big event

Google’s annual developer conference is one of the most exclusive must-attend events on the Android calendar. I was lucky enough to go last year and got to meet Sundar Pichai and Larry Page for the effort. Rubbing shoulders with CEOs, engineers, developers and enthusiasts aside, though, what else can you expect from Google I/O 2016?

Google I/O 2016 dates and location

Back on January 12, freshly minted Google CEO Sundar Pichai tweeted the dates and location for Google I/O 2016: May 18-20 at the Shoreline Amphitheater in Mountain View, California. For those unfamiliar with the location, it’s a long way away from any hotels and doesn’t exactly feature great public transport options, sparking widespread speculation that it might have been chosen to provide Google the opportunity to show off its self-driving cars…

Google I/O 2016 app

The official Google I/O 2016 app isn’t in Google Play yet, but each year the old app gets replaced with the new one, so when the new one goes live you can grab it via the button below. The Google I/O app includes livestreams for the keynote and major sessions, schedules, maps, reminders and some fun stuff.

Install Google I/O app

What to expect from Google I/O 2016


Android N

This one is a given, because Google announced a while back that annual developer previews of the next major Android release will be presented at each year’s I/O conference. 2016 will be no different, with the Android N developer preview making its first appearance. The preview will receive regular updates for the remainder of the year before being released in its final form at Nexus time in late September or early October.

As far as what Android N will deliver at I/O, it’s a little early to say. There’s still time for the dark theme and advanced power menu options to appear in Marshmallow and features like Force Touch are unlikely to make it to stock Android this quickly.

Google may try to make Doze functional even when the device is in motion, a new messaging app is already in store, multi-window mode should be finished by then and there will be even more user-facing controls and refinements added to Android N. The move to OpenJDK from Java APIs will also get some airplay but I wouldn’t expect any major visual changes.

android 6.0 marshmallowSee also: Android 6.0 Marshmallow features46

Self-driving cars

Google announced at Google I/O 2015 that the first self-driving cars would be released on the streets of Mountain View in 2016. So what better time to demo what they’re capable of than at Google I/O 2016? It may be a little far-fetched to expect Google to arrange transport for thousands of I/O attendees via its tiny autonomous vehicles, but the event will definitely give everyone the chance to take a ride in one.

google self driving car prototype

The Google division in charge of self-driving cars formerly known as Google[x] – and now simply known as X – has just received a new CEO who is, incidentally, a former Ford and Hyundai exec. We can expect to see John Krafcik take the stage with all the latest on Google’s autonomous vehicles and their expected commercial release in 2020.

Android Wear

A massive shake up of Android Wear is long overdue. The mobile platform came out early, moved sluggishly, and has now been surpassed by both Apple’s wearable platform and even Samsung’s Tizen OS. With multiple OEMs grumbling last year that if Google didn’t start pushing the wearable platform more aggressively they would consider developing their own, it’s now crunch time for Android Wear. I can’t tell you what will be announced, but I sure hope something significant is.

Project Ara

I was at the ATAP session last year and witnessed a fully functional Project Ara prototype get assembled on stage in seconds. The camera module was left out until the device had booted up, then it was inserted, runtime detected and working within seconds. Pretty impressive stuff. With the official trial of Project Ara being delayed until 2016 you know there will be some stage time dedicated to it.

Project Ara smartphone

Project Tango Lenovo logoSee also: Lenovo launching Project Tango phone1

Android Auto

Yet again we’re expecting Android Auto to be front and center at I/O 2016. Android Auto is really starting to enter the mainstream and the first sub-$20,000 vehicle was just announced last week: the Hyundai Elantra. 2016 may well be the year that Android Auto stops being something only geeks talk about and starts being something everyone talks about.

Project Aura

Project Aura is Google Glass 2.0. At least it would be if the original Glass had ever gone anywhere other than the Explorer Edition. Aura is supposedly the Consumer Edition. There’s also the enterprise-only Glass that recently showed up in FCC documents which show a slightly revised design with a hinge and larger prism, but what final form Project Aura will take and when it will be available is anyone’s guess.

Google Glass Enterprise Edition AA 1


Virtual reality

Following Google’s creation of a new virtual reality division called, creatively enough, Virtual Reality, you can expect VR to take a more central role at I/O this year. It’s unlikely there will be any products to discuss or any keynote announcements but there might be some hints and sneak peeks of what the newly formed team is working on. Keep an eye out for more on 360 video, YouTube quality, Cardboard partnerships and Expeditions.

Chrome OS

I actually don’t think there will be any major Chrome OS announcement at I/O 2016 unless they are related to the arrival of Material Design. Despite the recent rumor that Chrome OS would be folded into Android, Google officially denied the claim. Furthermore, Google’s SVP of Android, Chrome OS and Chromecast, Hiroshi Lockheimer, has assured everyone that there will be a range of new Chromebooks in 2016, but we probably won’t see them until Nexus time.

There’s also sure to be more on Nest, GoogleOn and smart home integration, Project Fi, the Internet of Things generally and project Brillo specifically, and maybe even something about a commercial application for Project Soli’s radar sensor for wearables.

What do you expect to see at Google I/O 2016? Will you be there?