Standing for input/output and “Innovation in the Open”, the annual Google I/O developer conference explores the latest in technology, web, and mobile. Held at San Francisco, this year’s event sees some major upgrades to Google’s Android platform, new projects from the ATAP team, and some nifty VR.
While there’s no announcement yet on what the new sweet-inspired name will be, we do know the next upgrade from Lollipop will be headed our way later this year. Google says it’s a back to basics as they focus on polishing existing features and fixing bugs, but there’s also plenty to get excited about.
- Android Pay: compatible with running on KitKat and above, the function lets you walk into stores and tap on an NFC terminal to pay for products. The service creates a virtual account number so your actual number isn’t shared with the retailer, and will work with existing card companies like Mastercard and Visa. Developers will be able to utilise in-app options to make purchasing easier.
- Google Now on Tap: already a strong contender in the virtual assistant front, the beefed up algorithms will see users get better contextualised information on what’s running on users’ phone screen. Restaurant suggestions while you’re having a text conversation or finding info about a YouTube clip you’re watching; say ‘OK Google’, followed by the question, and like magic the answers appear.
- Power and charging: M will be providing up to two-times longer standby time, as a new function named ‘Doze’ uses motion detectors to figure out how long since you last used the phone, and reduces background processes accordingly. Users can still receive alarms or notifications regardless. A newUSB Type-C connection will also provide faster charging, as well as use your phone as a mobile battery for things such as a Bluetooth headset or camera battery.
Internet of Things
Two new pieces of software were announced – Brillo and Weave – which will allow the company to power connected devices. Brillo is an Android-based IoT operating system, while Weave is an API standard, or the communication layer. This is the announcement that could tie Google as the standard bearer for the whole of the IoT movement.
- Brillo: taken down a notch on requirements so it runs with minimal footprint, it will contain Wi-Fi and Bluetooth Low Energy. It’ll work with Nest, Thread, and its natural Android platform means a huge number of developers and device manufacturers will be able to take advantage.
- Weave: the “common language” that allow devices to talk to each other, this could be what sets Google as the authority on the IoT movement. While just the basic infrastructure to connecting devices, it has the makings of a cornerstone. Weave’s full stack will be ready to go at the end of the year for developers to start mucking around with it.
Advanced Technology and Projects (ATAP)
Showing up on the second day, Google’s infamous ATAP team presented three new projects in the form of Soli, Jacquard, and Vault, as well as a hands-on demo of Ara and Spotlight Stories.
- Project Soli: a tiny radar sensor powerful enough to detect and understand fine finger gestures, at the size of a pinky-nail.
- Project Jacquard: introducing “multitouch sensors” into textiles, ATAP developed not only the sensors, but also the conductive yarn (in multiple colours) to adapt to the fashion industry. Looking like normal pieces of fabric, we could soon be changing Spotify playlists just by running fingers along a jacket’s cuffs. Google also announced a partnership with Levi’s to bring wearables to fashion.
- Project Vault: a microSD card that has some seriously heavy encryption. Basic premise is the ability to enable encrypted communications on a real-time custom OS – by inserting the card into a device, users can access an encrypted OS to better secure photos, chats, emails, and other important information. 4GB of data, powered by an ARM processor, contains NFC technology and antenna, and it also works with all systems including Android, Windows, OS X and Linux.
- Project Ara demo: it aims to produce highly modular smartphones, where hardware functionality in a phone can be pieced together like Lego bricks. It allows users to swap out malfunctioning modules or upgrade old ones, and at this conference audiences saw the first real-world version of an Ara phone.
- Spotlight Stories: these were introduced last year as short films that provide a 360 degree experience on users’ smartphones using an app, but now the first live-action film has been created. The short film, “Help”, is directed by Justin Lin, the director behind entries 3 to 6 in the Fast & Furious franchise.