We’ve heard from Microsoft, now it’s the time of Google, this is Google IO 2017. For those who don’t know, this is Google’s annual developers conference where typically we hear about the latest upcoming release of Android, as well as a spectrum of other Google product announcements in now both hardware and software!
Google is under pressure this year for tacking Amazon’s Alexa device, which competes directly with Google’s Home device. As usual CEO Sundar Pichai presented the event and here’s what they had to announce.
Google began the keynote with some stats, YouTube and Google services are obviously been used a lot, but the most interesting stat, 2 Billion Active Android Devices. Interestingly though, Apple said they’d sold 1 Billion iOS devices rather recently so the margin is surprisingly not as big as we’d of expected.
Coming first to Google Assistant and Google Photos, Google Lens allows you to scan any object, examples used was checking what kind of Flower was used, or even scan a Router and automatically connect to it’s Password. Image recognition also works for locations thanks to Google Maps.
Essentially Google Lens will allow you to scan images, videos and objects to be easily identified and even interacted with. We can say a massive use base of this app, connecting to WiFi, so we can’t wait to try this out once it becomes available.
Google Assistant was announced last year at Google IO 2016, being exclusive to the Google Pixel at first, but now it’s widely available on all Android devices running Android 7.1 Nougat and later. Whilst the Google Assistant isn’t quite perfect just yet, it’s naturally getting better, especially now it integrates with the Google Lens we just spoke about above.
One of the big improvements in Google Assistant is how you interact with the Assistant itself, naturally you can still speak via “OK Google” or tapping the microphone, and the Camera icon is naturally Google Lens, but now you can finally just type what you wish to say, similarly to how you used to be able to use the Assistant in Google Allo.
Google Assistant on iPhone
Just like it can on Android, Google Assistant will be able to interact with your entire Google app catalogue, but of course the entire list of new services such as Google Lens which just was spoken about. But now, naturally, it’s going to be available on the iPhone.
Google Assistant on iPhone is rather a funny ironic thing, as even the majority of Android users not yet on 7.1 Nougat can’t even get to the Google Assistant, but their you go, this is the same complaint Android users had when Google Now came to iPhone before majority of Android devices, but there you go.
Google Home was barely announced 6 months ago, but it’s the most pressured product for the company to talk about at Google IO. Amazon’s Alexa is getting more and more popular, and even has a screen, so what’s Google got in store for you.
NEW AVAILABLE MARKETS
Google Home launches in the United States and most recently became available in United Kingdom, but of course will be coming to more Countries including Canada, Australia, France, Germany and Japan.
Proactive Assistant is one of the updates coming to the existing Google Home, the Home will start flickering with the ability to place and alert notifications, be that travel alerts or simple reminders you’ve booked.
Hands-Free Calling is also coming to Google Home, kind of had to come to Google Home as it’s now coming to the Amazon Alexa. Google stated it can call any number for free, what’s rather odd is naturally how it’s done, either through Google Allo, though Google specified that it will allow unlimited calling to traditional Landlines and Mobiles for free with no set-up or not. You can link your own number to Google Home as well to make it more personal. Time will tell the specified ways of which this will be done. For now though, only in the US, but likely coming to the UK and the upcoming markets.
Google Home will now be supporting more Music services starting with not only the Paid service but now Spotify free on Google Home. Soundcloud and Deezer will be joining Spotify too.
For those who wish to share their Audio Wirelessly to a Google Home, Bluetooth support for Audio is also coming in an update.
Visual Responses was an interesting topic spoken about, as this was where the majority of us were expecting Google to announce a new Google Home with a Display, but Google are doing things differently. Instead of adding a Display, Google has opted to either displaying content to your Smartphone via a Notification, or by using Chromecast, which will allow you to see content on the TV.
Google Photos has a few changes coming in an upcoming update, which makes the App experience that much better than it already is. All features announced will be coming in an App update on both iOS and Android in the coming weeks.
Google Photos will now suggest Photos to be shared with Users which Google Photos recognised using Google’s machine learning. Via a notification, Google Photos will be able to notify, remind, or likely annoy, you on Photos it thinks you should share to those people contained within the Photos you’ve taken.
Once Photos have been shared, contributing Photos from recipients can also be added via Suggested as well.
Call us old fashioned but we’re kind of not a fan of this feature, but for those who are socialised egotists, this is for you!
Shared Libraries is pretty much the same as Apple’s Photostream feature. You have the ability to share everything you take, or Photos you specify more importantly for those certain ones out there. The difference between this an Photostream, is the ability to automatically share and save Photos from Shared libraries should they contain certain people.
Photo Books is exactly what you’d think it is, the ability to Print the Photos you’ve taken simply and easily. Of course to do this comes two simple problems. First, which Photos to choose, which should be made easier thanks to Google’s suggestions, but the biggest is of course the actual Printing itself. Well, to help with the Printing, is Google’s new Photo Books where Google will print and send you your Photos in these two configurations;
- $9.99 soft cover
- $19.99 hard cover
A nice demo fail occurred which we expect will be patched, where it actually failed to find Photos via that magical machine learning, but it’s still great to have a printed Photo Book service right from Google Photos.
Photo Books is available today for Android users in the US, iOS in the US, with more Countries coming “soon”.
An unusual presence at Google IO, to the point where it’s the first time is YouTube. YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki went on stage to talk the next steps in terms of YouTube. The likely appearance of YouTube at Google IO could be a political move as YouTube hasn’t exactly had the best press recently in terms of looking after its Creators, but unfortunately that wasn’t the case. Instead was a cringeworthy presentation surrounding the content available on YouTube.
360° IN THE LIVING ROOM
YouTube on TV will now allow you to watch 360° videos on your TV. Google only demonstrated this on Chromecast, but did mention Xbox, so it could come to the much wider availability of YouTube on the TV including the massive range of Smart devices, Apple TV, and the rest of the Consoles.
Whilst Google didn’t tell us what Android O would actually be called, Google did talk briefly about a collection of things coming to Android O once it gets released this year.
Google focused on two areas of Android to highlight some O improvements, being the Fluid Experience and the Vitals.
- Picture-in-Picture natively on Android devices, whether Tablets or Mobiles. Works with Duo, YouTube and more as you’d expect.
- Notification Dots will be coming natively to stock Android, similar to the old-school Blackberry and iOS devices, you will now be able to see a Dot on your icon when a Notification is present. Tap and holding the App icon will show the Notification.
- Autofill for Apps allows you to use shared commands and services to the App experience. For example should you use Twitter.com in your browser, you’ll be able to use that automatically when you open the Twitter app even the first time
- Smart Text Selection allows you to tap important information such as Addresses and Number and Automatically presents suggestions and selects the full list automatically with a tap.
Vitals are Google’s ways to keep performance, OS optimisation, security and more to be kept stable and maintain that stability over the course of time. This is something we’ve personally noticed over time on pretty much all devices slow time over time, hopefully this will change over time.
- Google Play Protect is essentially a Security Suite built in to Android, similar to Blackberry’s DTEK Service, which tells you whether your device is as secure as it could be.
- Twice as fast boot time
- Wise limits to background use, to protect battery life
- Play Console Dashboard has been introduced to show Developers what causes their Apps to slow down over time, cover the levels of CPU, RAM and more.
- Kotlin programming language support is coming for Devs
The first beta release of Android O is available today at the usual address, http://www.android.com/beta
Android Go is a new initiative brought forward from the likes of Android One, in fact it almost is Android One re-born. However, whilst Android One is all about Stock Android devices with low end hardware costing hardly anything, Android Go is all about the software experience.
- Optimising the latest release of Android to run on the lowest end hardware
- Apps that run better on specific hardware
- Google Play will suggest apps which run best for your Hardware such as Facebook Lite and Skype Lite.
- Android Go will be coming for devices with 1GB of less of RAM.
- Android devices with the new Android Go specifications will be able to run “stably” with even 512MB of RAM with Android Go, that’s yet to be proved but should be interesting.
- Mobile Data Management will be available in quick settings, allowing display of Data simply and should a Carrier integrate, Top Up ability from Settings. Chrome Data Saver will be switches on by default to save data as well.
- YouTube Go is a new version of the YouTube app specified to saving Data whilst used. YouTube Go will show you how much Mobile Data a video contains before watching it in selected quality, and download for offline use. Users will be able to share via peer-to-peer to other devices as well without the use of Mobile Data.
Android Go for now is just an idea, first devices will begin shipping 2018 and will likely be popular in hard reaching markets. To find out more about Android Go, you can visit developer.android.com/billions
Whilst Google did discuss improvements coming to VR with Google Daydream, we’re more excited about the power of AR, in particularly with Google’s incredible Tango experience.
First up, Google announced a new device coming very soon supporting Google Tango, the ASUS Zenfone AR. The interesting and exciting thing, is that the Tango experience is now coming to much more manageable form factors which can only mean good things for its future.
VISUAL POSITIONING SERVICE
Google’s Tango interface can already map space via the device itself, however now with VPS (Google’s Visual Positioning Service) it now works with Google Maps and more to far more accurately map your surroundings much more accurately, to the point of even noticing specified objects already around you.
EXPEDITIONS FOR AR
Expeditions is a service for Education already available in VR, but AR is now coming, allowing Students and Kids do education visually thanks to AR. This is a pretty incredible break through to see just what is possible already with Tango.
And there you have it, that’s Google IO 2017. Whilst it was hardly the most exciting Google IO ever, in fact we’d argue it was rather forgetful, this is what Google has for us this year and we’ll see how that compares to the competition as time goes by.