For the past 5 years, I’ve watched Google’s keynote on a big screen. This year however, I was lucky enough to go to Google I/O in person. This 10th anniversary edition was set in the Mountain View’s Shoreline Amphitheatre, where sunscreen was handed out on arrival since Google hosted it outside in the burning Californian sun. It didn’t really stop some people from getting a serious sunburn, but then again: it’s rather hard to get a tan staying inside watching it on YouTube.
The event kicked off with the keynote announcing all new things Google worked on for the last year. Google worked hard on machine learning and A.I., proven by the recent win in the game Go. These technologies are now imbedded in more and more different products. Google Photos is able to recognize objects and faces for instance, even in your videos. Google Assistant was introduced, creating a more natural conversation with Google, rather than standalone questions without context.
Another innovation is Google Home, a speaker enabling the use of Google Assistant anywhere in your home. It is voice-operated, and connects your Chromecast and Nest devices.
Messaging app Allo lifts chatting to a whole new level. It provides you with smart chat suggestions, and has the Google Assistant integrated in it. It’s even possible to book a table at a restaurant while having a chat conversation. The Duo app makes video calling more fun with its ‘Knock-knock’ feature, enabling you to have live video, even before the other person takes on your call.
All VR rumors got confirmed as Google sets a standard for smartphones, headsets & controllers with Daydream. Smartphones that can be used for VR will get a ‘Daydream-ready’ label: they will have high resolution screens and high performance sensors. Unreal Engine and Unity are both teaming up with Google to support Daydream, and Android N will fully support VR.
Developer previews of Android N have already been available for several months now. For users, some of the most important changes are the multi-window support, the bundled notifications with support for reply within the notification itself, and the enhanced Doze mode (introduced in Android Marshmallow) to save battery life. Android Wear 2.0 will now also support standalone apps.
Google announced Instant Apps, which makes it possible to open an app without the need of having it installed. This can be very useful for apps which you only use once. This way, a lot more users can be reached, as an app can be launched from a simple URL, without going through the installation first. Google plans on launching Instant Apps later this year, current access for developers is limited.
Enjoying Google I/O
Afterwards thousands of developers spread out to see hundreds of sessions, stretched over 3 days, on 10 different stages. As so many new things were announced, it was extremely hard to choose which session to attend and which to skip. For some of them queues were lining up, and at times it was difficult even to get into a session. As Android Competence Lead at In the Pocket, I focused on new announcements about Android. It was great to see how the platform evolved yet again and how the tools keep getting better, faster and more efficient.
Alongside these sessions, the ‘Office Hours’ created the opportunity to chat with Google engineers, discuss some technical issues, or even get a review on an app. For the impatient that couldn’t wait to get their hands on new API’s or tools, the ‘developer sandboxes’ were great try-out zones. In addition, the festival terrain was filled with demo’s, ranging from VR or AR to robots mocking about. One of them was painting a rotatable cube driven by an Android app, while his robot-sibling was drawing your face based on a photo taken with a smartphone.
In the evening the event started to feel like a music festival for nerds: hunting aliens with a Nerf gun powered by Project Tango, street artists performing shows and a Charlie XCX or Kygo concert in the amphitheatre.
Another big announcement came later during a press-only session: this fall, Chrome OS will have Google Play, so Android apps will be installable on Chromebooks. This makes it even more important to support different sizes for your app and have multi-window supported.
The developer tool Android Studio also got a serious upgrade: support for constraint layouts, recording of functional tests, and many more small things that make a developer’s life easier.
Additional innovative news for Firebase: founded in 2011, but acquired by Google in 2014. Integrations of Google’s existing services were added, together with new features. Firebase now offers solutions for cloud storage, crash reporting, push notifications, analytics, testing and much more.
As you probably can tell: Google I/O was a great experience to be part of with In The Pocket. It inspires us to experiment and get our hands on everything new, and we get to meet fellow developers to learn from and to share knowledge with… festivalwise.