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By:Elyse Swoverland, Android & iOS Developer at Eleven Fifty Consulting
Both Google and tech enthusiasts alike wait every year for Google I/O, Google’s annual developer conference where they announce to the world what they’ve been working on for the past year. In case you missed it, I’m here to help you with a recap of the most exciting announcements at Google I/O 2016!
Google Home is Google’s response to Amazon Echo. It’s a compact wireless Bluetooth speaker with a built-in mic so that you can interact with with Google Assistant, Google’s new, more robust version of the “Ok, Google” voice assistant that we all know and love. You can ask it anything you want to know, similar to how you interact with Google Search. Google Home can also work as a Chromecast. For instance, it can play audio through its own speaker or cast it to connected speakers; it can even cast content to your TV. It will also be able to control home automation systems such as Google’s Nest products. In the video shown during the keynote, we see a family effectively “power down” their house upon leaving just by telling Google Home “goodbye.” Google Home will be available towards the end of the year.
Daydream is Google’s next foray into the world of virtual reality. What started with Google Cardboard has now grown into what is known as Daydream. Daydream is a VR platform built on Android N. It is an all-in-one experience that brings together games, apps, movies, YouTube, and even the Google Play Store to virtual reality. Google will be releasing their own headset and controller, but other OEMs such as Samsung, HTC, and Huawei will also be releasing their own headsets and Daydream-ready devices. All hardware and software are expected to be released in Fall 2016.
Allo is Google’s new messaging app with Google Assistant built in. Like other messaging apps of its kind, Allo is linked to your phone number and will feature the ability to use stickers and emojis. One of the features that sets Allo apart, however, is something called Whisper-Shout. Whisper-Shout allows you to easily resize text based on the volume of voice you want to convey, effectively erasing the need to resort to something like using all caps to convey certain emotions. Allo also provides personalized suggestions of what you might want to say based on smart photo recognition, conversation history, and other contextual clues. One last popular feature of Allo is its Incognito Mode which features end-to-end encryption, message expiration, and private notifications. When you shut down the chat in Incognito Mode, the conversation is deleted forever. Allo is expected to be available later this summer for both Android and iOS.
Duo is Google’s new cross-platform video chat app. The most exciting and distinctive feature of this app is something called Knock Knock. Knock Knock shows you a preview of the video chat before the chat has even started. Via your friend’s front-facing camera, you will be able to see who is calling and what they’re doing before you even answer. For example, if your friends are calling to sing you happy birthday you might see them standing around a cake waving “hi” and waiting to sing.
Android Wear 2.0
Android Wear is finally getting a much-needed update. Much of the focus of version 2.0 will be on making wearables functional standalone devices. On the hardware side, there’s more focus on bringing LTE connectivity to the watches themselves, so they don’t need to always be paired with a smartphone. This will enable you to do things such as go for a run while streaming Spotify, without needing to find a way to bring their phone along. Version 2.0 will also introduce a full QWERTY keyboard, app shortcuts to the watchface, standalone apps, and better handwriting recognition. Another welcome update that has been announced is that your apps can now effectively talk to one another. For fitness buffs, that means that your calorie counting app can now communicate with your fitness tracking app, so you are better able to see all data in once space.
Android Instant Apps
One of the most exciting announcements at Google I/O was the introduction of Android Instant Apps. This functionality will give you the ability to access and use an app without having to download it. When a developer adds support for Instant Apps, tapping a URL will give you access to the full-fledged Android app. When that URL is tapped, the Google Play Store searches for the app and downloads only the necessary code. You can use the app in all the ways that you normally would. Work on Instant Apps is currently still in progress, but when it’s out of preview it will work on phones with Jelly Bean and above.
Anyone with an Android phone knows that updating it can be a time-consuming process. That’s why the announcement of seamless updates with Android N was such exciting news. Currently, when you get an update it is downloaded automatically, then prompts you to reboot so that all updates can be installed and apps can be optimized. Now, with the new seamless update process the update will be downloaded and installed in the background. You will only be prompted to reboot when the entire install is finished.
In the past, if you wanted to take advantage of what Android Auto has to offer you had to buy a new car. At I/O, Google announced that is no longer the case. Android Auto is now available as a standalone app, with all of the functionality of the in-car system. There will also be some major updates to the in-car system as well. You will no longer have to press a button on the console before initiating a search, the “Ok, Google” voice prompt will now be recognized on its own and will initiate the search process similar to a voice search on your phone. They also announced that Waze will soon be fully integrated as well, giving you another option in addition to Google Maps.
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