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Google I/O 2017 Key Updates

Google I/O 2017

Google I/O (simply I/O) is an annual developer conference held by Google in San Francisco, California. I/O showcases technical in-depth sessions focused on building web, mobile, and enterprise applications with Google and open sources such as Android, Chrome and Chrome OS, APIs, Google Web Toolkit, App Engine, and more.

I/O was inaugurated in 2008, and is organized by the executive team. “I/O” stands for input/output, as well as the slogan “Innovation in the Open”. The event’s format is similar to Google Developer Day.

  • Google Home can make phone calls
    • The smart speaker battle is heating up: Just days after Amazon revealed a new Echo device with a screen, Google announced a slew of new capabilities for its own connected speaker, the Home.
    • The most significant upgrade is that Home users will be able to make hands-free phone calls through the device. Calls to the U.S. and Canada will be free, while Homeowners can choose to link their phone number to the gadget. (Amazon recently announced a similar feature, but calling is limited to Echo-to-Echo communication for now).
    • Because Google Home can tell the difference between various users’ voices, it will know to call the right person depending on who’s placing the call. During a live demo, Google’s Rishi Chandra asked to call his mom, then said that if his wife had uttered the same phrase, the Home would have known to call Chandra’s mother-in-law instead.
    • Google is also launching a new Home feature called “proactive assistance,” which is basically a different term for notifications (another feature that arrived on the Echo this month.) When the Home’s microphone lights up, users will be able to ask the Home if it has any important updates to share, such as a change to an upcoming calendar appointment or a flight delay.
  • The Google Assistant can “see”
    • The Google Assistant digital aide is getting a big visual upgrade. In the coming months, users will be able to point their phone at a sign in a different language and watch as it’s translated before their very eyes. Or, if they aim their phone at a theater, it could show upcoming showtimes and an option to buy tickets. That’s all thanks to Google’s Lens app, which is similar to the Bixby Vision feature Samsung offers on its Galaxy S8 and S8+ smartphones.
    • Furthermore, the Google Assistant is coming to Apple iPhones as a standalone app. It won’t be baked in at the operating system level like Siri is, so it will be limited in how useful it is for iPhone owners. But it can still do things like the Lens features above.
  • Android O updates
    • Google offered new information about what to expect from its next major Android update, which for now is referred to as “Android O.”
    • One highlight: When downloading an app for the first time, Android may ask if you’d like it to fill in your username if you’ve already used that service in Google Chrome.
    • Google is also making it easier to copy-and-paste text in Android. If you tap an address, for example, it will automatically select the entire address instead of just a portion of it, and from there it will suggest pasting it into Google Maps.
    • Other core Android O updates will improve security and battery life and add a picture-in-picture mode, which will let users minimize a video so that it only occupies a portion of the screen.
  • New Android software for low-end phones
    • Google is working on a version of Android called Android Go that’s optimized to work on low-end phones with under 1GB of memory (most high-end phones have around 4GB.) Go is also built to help users budget their bandwidth: When using the Android Go version of YouTube, for instance, users will be able to preview videos and see exactly how much data they will eat up before deciding to stream a full clip.
    • Android Go is similar in spirit to Google’s Android One program, which offers low-cost Android devices to users in developing markets.
  • Virtual reality without a phone
    • Google is one of several tech companies pursuing the “holy grail” of virtual reality: Headsets that don’t need to be connected to a computer or smartphone to work. To that end, the search giant announced that standalone VR headsets will be available starting later this year.
    • HTC — maker of the Steam-compatible Vive headset — and PC maker Lenovo are among the first partners working on these headsets. The search giant collaborated with chipmaker Qualcomm to come up with a reference design.
  • Google Photos makes real-life albums now
    • Move over, Shutterfly. Google announced a new service that creates photo books based on the images in your phone’s gallery. If you’re using the Google Photos app, you’ll be able to search for images of a specific person. From there, Google Photos can choose the best photos and arrange them in an album that you can order.
    • Google also announced other sharing-centric features for Google Photos. You can, for instance, choose to share your entire photo library with your spouse or a family member. If you don’t want them seeing your entire collection, you can limit the sharing to only include photos of specific people, like your kids.
  • Google Assistant on the iPhone
    • Assistant is also coming to the iPhone for the first time. Google Assistant will get its own app on iOS, and it’s already available for download in the US App Store.
  • Google Home
    • Proactive assistant support is finally coming to Google Home. This means the Google Home will light up and get your attention to deliver information without the user having to request it. For example, the Home will light up if you have an upcoming meeting and it’s time to leave.
    • The second big addition is hands-free calling. Just ask Google Home to make a call, and the speaker will place the call. Calls within the US are also completely free, which is a nice perk.
    • Spotify’s free service will be supported on the Google Home for the first time beginning this summer (only paid subscriptions were supported previously). Soundcloud and Deezer support is coming as well, and all models will soon be updated with support for Bluetooth audio streaming from any device.
    • Finally, Google is adding support for visual responses on Google Home. Home doesn’t have a screen, of course, but it will connect to other devices with screens — an Android phone, a Chromecast, or even an iPhone. For example, you can ask your Google Home for directions to a destination, and Home can send those directions to your phone and open Google Maps.
    • For more details, check out our additional coverage of Google Home.
  • Google Photos
    • Google is adding three new features to Google Photos. The first is Suggested Sharing, which will use machine learning to remind you to share photos with people who appear in them. For example, if you take a group shot with five people, Google Photos will later pop up a reminder suggesting that you share the pic with each of the five people who appears in the photo.
    • As an extension of Google Photos’ new sharing feature, other people who take photos as the same event as you will be able to share recommended photos to a group album that all included users can access.
    • Shared libraries is another new feature that will let you configure your phone so that it will share any images you capture of a certain person. So for example, all photos you take of your children can automatically be shared with your husband or wife.
    • These new features will roll out to iOS, Android and the web in the coming weeks.
    • One final feature Google is adding to Google Photos is Photo Books, which uses machine learnings to help compile photo albums that can then be printed in a physical soft cover or hardcover book that’s shipped to your door in just a few days. Google’s Photo Books product launches today on the web, and each book costs $9.99.
  • YouTube
    • Google had plenty to say about YouTube, but the star of the show is the upcoming arrival of 360-degree YouTube video support in the YouTube smart TV app. Using your TV’s standard remote, you’ll be able to pan around 360-degree videos on the big screen. This will also extends to live events, which can stream in 360-degree video directly to your TV through the YouTube app.
  • Android Go
    • Android Go is essentially a new iteration of the company’s old Android One initiative. It will offer a lighter-weight version of Android O and future Android builds, and it will facilitate lighter-weight apps. This will allow device makers to build cheaper phones with less expensive components that will still be able to offer a quick and smooth Android experience.
  • VR and AR
    • Google announced Daydream last year to help vendors bring a high-quality virtual reality experience to mobile devices. On Wednesday, Google announced that Daydream support is coming to LG’s next flagship phone, as well as Samsung’s Galaxy S8 and S8+ in an upcoming update. But what about what’s next?
    • Google announced the addition of a standalone Daydream VR headset spec. This will allow vendors to build mobile VR headsets that do not need a smartphone to run. They’ll have no wires, and they will not need to be connected to a PC. HTC Vive and Lenovo are both currently working with Google to build and launch standalone Daydream headsets later this year.
    • Where augmented reality is concerned, Google announced a Visual Positioning Service (VPS, like GPS) that will enable next-generation AR experiences and indoor guidance. For example, VPS can guide you through a store to the exact product you came to purchase. Google is also adding AR features to Expeditions, it’s education product that allows students to enjoy interactive learning experiences in the classroom.
  • Smart Reply in Gmail
    • Google’s machine learning system analyzes the contents of an email in the Android or iOS Gmail app, and it suggests some quick and simple replies to an email. This is similar to what smartphones do with text messages. Learn more right here.
  • Google Lens
    • A set of vision-based computing capabilities that can see what you’re looking at and offer information about the object. For example, you can point your phone camera at a flower and Google Lens will tell you what kind of flower it is. Even more impressively, you can scan the label on a Wi-Fi router and connect to the network instantly! Check out our post on Google Lens for more info.
  • Find My Device app
    • Moments before the start of the Google I/O developer conference, Google put its new device-finding app up on the Google Play Store. It’s called “Find My Device,” which is going to draw a few comparisons to Apple’s famous “Find My iPhone” feature.
    • The new app is more than just a name, though. It has received a serious visual overhaul, with a new 3-D map that looks much more 2017. Devices are listed like tabs across the top of the app, which makes it easier to find your smartwatch in case it just slipped off your wrist.
    • The core functions of the app remain the same: you can see a device on the map, provided it’s online, or see the last known location. Provided the device is connected to the internet, you can make it play a sound, lock it, or put it into a “lost device” mode to make it easier to retrieve.
    • The app is obviously designed for use on a friend’s Android device, or for using on your own phone to find a lost tablet or watch. If you’re trying to find a device from a PC web browser, you’re still much better off typing “find my phone” into Google, and using the built-in interface to ping it.
  • Google Assistant
    • Google is making huge updates to Google Assistant. First and foremost, Google is adding the ability to type to the Assistant on your phone. This might seem like a step backwards, but it’s obviously going to come in handy when you’re in public.
    • Google Assistant will also tie into Google Lens, so you can make conversational requests to Assistant about things you see. For example, you can point the camera at a dish on a menu, and then ask Assistant what it looks like without ever naming the dish. Assistant will then return photos of the dish using a Google image search.
    • Actions on Google+ is Google’s third-party developer toolkit that allows developers to integrate Google Assistant support into their services. This feature used to be limited to Google Home, but now it’s available on Android and iOS devices.
  • Google Home Turns Into a Phone
    • Like Amazon, Google is turning its smart speaker into a phone. Over the coming months, all Homeowners will be able to place free calls to the United States and Canada. By default, Google uses a private number for this feature — but you’ve got the option of tying it to your own mobile phone number. The same goes for everyone else in your house, as phone calls support Home’s multi-user setup
  • Google’s New Ai Chip Could Turn The Cloud Into Its Next Android
    • Pichai was quick to hammer home the point that his company’s future depends on artificial intelligence, specifically the machine learning techniques that let algorithms learn on their own and improve over time. This technology underpins everything from its Assistant and search to Google Photos and the AlphaGo system. During the opening remarks of the I/O keynote today, Pichai announced Google’s next-generation Tensor Processing Unit, a specially designed chip for machine learning that works on the company’s Tensor Flow platform.
    • This new TPU chip effectively makes building AI on Google’s platform incredibly fast and efficient, more so than with hardware and machine learning platforms used by competitors. With TPU and Tensor Flow being optimized to work together, Google is effectively transforming its cloud computing platform into the Android for AI. This is a big deal for Google’s future. If the company can own the hardware and software used by the most cutting-edge AI researchers, it can stay at the forefront of the field and have its hand in every exciting advancement that machine learning, and every other AI breakthrough, yields in the future.
  • LG and GE add Google Assistant support to fridges, washers, ovens, and more
    • Google said today that we’re going to start seeing appliances show up with support for the Google Assistant, and two companies are already launching integrations: LG and GE.
    • Both companies are updating their existing lines of connected appliances so that they can be controlled through the Google Home and Assistant. Supported appliances including fridges, ovens, washers and dryers, an air purifier from LG, and an air conditioner and water heater from GE.
    • This doesn’t mean you’ll be able to speak directly to these appliances to control them, however. You’ll still have to use one of the existing Google Assistant interfaces — your phone or a Google Home — but they’ll be able to handle commands that you had to open up LG’s or GE’s app to handle in the past.
    • that said, the experience sounds slightly awkward, since you’ll have to be very specific in your requests to the Google Assistant. With GE, for instance, you’ll have to say “OK Google, ask Geneva Home if the dishes are clean,” since Geneva Home is the name of it’s connected app. It’d be simpler if you could just ask, “Are the dishes clean?” How many dishwashers could you possibly be trying to check, anyway?
    • LG says it’ll begin rolling out support for the Assistant this month. GE says its support will launch today.
    • While this is an important get for Google, it isn’t breaking new ground here. GE has already had Alexa support on all of these appliances, and LG even launched a fridge with built-in Alexa that you can speak to.
    • During a presentation at the I/O conference today, Google said that we’ll start to see “Google Assistant Built In” badges on supported products.

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