Google announced a bunch of new products today at the I/O 2016 conference in Mountain View, California. Some, like Google Home and Android N, were expected while others, such as the VR standard Daydream, weren’t. Here’s the best of what they announced:
The search company announced an always-listening virtual assistant for the home at today’s Google I/O 2016. Similar to Amazon’s Echo, Google Home will allow users to discover movie times, answer a question, or carry out a task using a vocal command from anywhere in the room. But unlike Amazon’s Echo, Google Home buyers can customize the colors of their always-listening device. In addition, Google Home can control your TV, presumably if it has a Chromecast attached. And because it’s from Google, Android users can expect some sort of tie-in between their phone and Home virtual assistant.
No firm release date has been announced for Google Home.
Google didn’t bring us a VR headset like we had hoped. But they did introduce a set of standards for hardware makers to reference while making VR-supporting smartphones. Google Daydream will help phone makers like Samsung, LG, HTC, Huawei and more match Google’s requirements this fall.
In addition to hardware specs, companies interested in making Google Daydream devices will have to adhere to Google’s standards for making headsets and controllers as well. A controller the company demoed at I/O 2016 supported motion and offered buttons on its face.
We’ll start seeing Google Daydream devices this fall.
But it wouldn’t be a Google keynote without mention of the company’s successful smartphone platform. Android has made its way to Android N (which Google has called upon its users to help name) and is bringing some interesting features to the handset operating system. Multitasking in Android has always allowed multiple apps to run in the background simultaneously, and now they can do so in the foreground. Picture-in-picture allows Android users to put two apps on screen at once to see Twitter while they browse the web, watch a video while tapping out a text, and more.
Notifications will see an update in Android N as well. Similar to what early-adopters saw in the Android N preview, users of Google’s latest smartphone operating system will be able to reply to messages from within the same app right from the banner notification. Long pressing on the notification will also let you control how often alerts like it surface.
Android N users will also see security updates such as improvements to encryption on the file level. But one of the most significant improvements is in Android’s ability to run apps that users have yet to install. Dubbed Android Instant Apps, users will be able to run certain apps as quickly as accessing a webpage.
Allo will serve as Google’s latest communication tool for mobile. In addition to allowing Android users to trade messages, the messenger will support Google’s voice assistant features. You can either summon the assistant from within a chat window or text Google’s assistant itself. Similar to the assistant found in Google Home, the texting version allows for users to search movie times, gifs and other important information and media useful in the moment. While Allo seems to be Google’s answer to Facebook Messenger’s recent support of bots, there’s currently no word on whether Allo will fall back on SMS like Apple’s iMessage.
Those looking to go off-the-record will appreciate Allo’s incognito mode. Allo doesn’t have a firm release date as of yet, but according to Google, it will make its way to devices this summer.
The video counterpart to Allo, Duo will allow users to make one-on-one video calls. The message is tied to your phone number and offers Knock Knock, a feature that gives users a live video preview of the person calling them.
The app does not allow for video conferencing and offers few buttons. But placing and hanging up a call, and switching between front-facing and rear camera is all Google presumes users needs out of a video chat application.
Duo will also make its way to phone users this summer.
Miscellaneous Google I/O 2016 Updates
Google made mention of other updates as well. Android Wear 2.0 will bring new features to the wrist with a new UI, an API for third-parties interested in utilizing complications, and more. The company also made mention of their focus on machine learning and bragged about their win in Alpha Go.
Unfortunately, many of the updates seen today did not have a firm release date. But Google I/O 2016 has shown that there’s much to look forward to from the company this summer and fall, and the fun’s not over yet! You can continue to follow our Google I/O coverage over the next few days here.