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.
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!