Google I/O 2017 started today, and like last year, I’ve compiled all of the keynote announcements into an easily skimmable place for you to see what Google has in store for the coming year(s)!
Let’s get started!
While lots of the stuff in this I/O will affect Android users, the actual time that Google devoted to the latest version of the Android operating system was relatively low.
The biggest thing that was revealed – Android O beta registration is now live if you want to try it out and have a compatible device. (Nexus 5X, 6P, Pixel, Pixel XL, Pixel C tablet, or Nexus Player).
New Features in O
Starting with things for all Android O devices, this new version of the operating system will improve the phone’s boot-up time (cutting it in half) and improve the speed of certain apps (although the specifics weren’t really discussed). O will also prevent background apps from using as many resources, such as battery or data.
The Google Play Store’s antivirus and malware detection will become more visible, under the Google Play Protect program. This is something that the app store already does, but Google will now advertise that feature to users in the Play Store.
Smart Text Selection allows you to double-tap on certain text (business names, addresses, phone numbers) and Android will automatically select the entire relevant string. The contextual copy/paste menu will also include relevant shortcuts (to the phone dialer, if you tap on a phone number) to make switching between apps faster.
A new autofill API (similar to Chrome’s autofill feature) will make signing into new devices much faster, automatically filling in usernames and passwords.
Android O will be getting Notification Dots, will provide rich notifications on app icons, such as the number of unread emails or texts. Long pressing will allow you to quickly interact with the notifications right from the app icon.
A new picture-in-picture multitasking functionality (similar to Android’s current Youtube app) will allow you to continue to watch videos or continue video calls while outside their respective apps. This makes the video (or video call) much smaller than Android’s current multi-window multitasking capabilities.
For any developers reading this, a new programming language, Kotlin, will also be supported by Android. Kotlin will be able to be seamlessly integrated into current and new apps, and developers can use Java and Kotlin side-by-side in an app. Additionally, the Play Console Dashboard is getting a revamp to show developers the top 6 issues that are harming the user experience, such as running slowly or draining excess battery.
Also announced as part of Android O is a new stripped-down version of Android for lower-spec phones and devices.
Android Go is optimized for devices with less than 1 gigabyte of RAM and slower processors. Android Go also puts data-related tools front-and-center, with the ability to easily check on data use and activate Chrome’s data saver easily. Android Go also features a version of the Youtube app (called Youtube Go) that comes with many features designed to save data, such as downloading a video when connected to WiFi to watch later, and the ability to transfer a video between Android Go phones directly.
Phones with 1 gig of memory or less automatically ship with Android Go
Future versions of Android will all feature a “Go version” for lower-spec devices.
AI was a big theme of this keynote speech, and Google Lens was one of the first consumer products that Google discussed in this speech.
Google Lens is, at its most basic, a rebrand (and improvement on) Google Goggles. This image recognition software is incorporated in many of the other products and apps that Google unveiled today.
Some of the features that Google Lens will incorporate included pointing your phone at a specific flower (if you have allergies) and Lens will identify the specific type of flower. You can also point at WiFi credentials, and Lens will automatically log you onto the network. You can even point it at a business sign or storefront, and Google will pull up relevant information about that business.
A big part of Google’s AI push is its personal assistant, helpfully called Google Assistant.
Not surprisingly, Google Assistant will incorporate Google Lens, so you can interact with things you see through your camera. For example, pointing your phone to a marquee to add a specific event to your calendar, buy tickets, etc.
You’ll be able to type to Assistant soon, instead of speaking to it (or need to use Google’s Allo app).
Google Assistant on phones will also incorporate Actions on Assistant, which allow 3rd parties to offer tight integrations with Assistant. This feature was previously only available on the Google Home (discussed below!). The example given was ordering delivery from Panera through the Google Assistant app. You could view the menu, place your order, make changes, and pay without having to enter any information. Google used your home address (or presumably your location) for the delivery address and used Google Play’s payment options to handle payment.
In order to bring Assistant to more devices, Google is also releasing the Assistant SDK. If you enjoyed seeing Amazon’s Echo service on everything from refrigerators to thermostats, Google is getting in on that game too!
As part of bringing Assistant to as many people as possible, Google Assistant is available on iOS as an upgrade to the Google app. It will also be available in several more languages by the end of summer.
Instead of just responding to requests for information, Google Home will now offer Proactive Assistance. If you commute time is much longer than normal, for example, Google Home will notify you so that you are able to leave in time. This notification is a discreet flashing of Google Home’s lights, and then you prompt Home for more information, which seems to be a smart way to do it. Hopefully, this means that support for reminders isn’t far behind.
Just on the heels of Amazon’s update to Echo, Google Home will now offer hands-free calling to any number in the US or Canada for free. Although not the neatest function Home’s ability to identify up to 6 users by voice means that a request to “call Mom” will result in the correct number being called, depending on who is talking to Home. Home, by default, calls from a private number, but you can set it to use your cell phone number. Again, this would be linked to the voice that is making the call. Neat and spooky!
Home will now support Spotify paid and free accounts, as well as a few other audio services like Soundcloud. You can also connect via Bluetooth to play audio from your phone through the Home’s speaker.
There are additional partners announced for TV integration, like HBO Now and Hulu. This means that you can tell Google Home to play more programs on a Chromecast or Android TV.
Home will now incorporate Visual Responses on various screens. For example, if you ask for directions to an upcoming calendar entry, you’ll receive them on your phone. You can also display things like calendars, weather, Youtube video recommendations, and DVR recordings (from Youtube TV) on your TV.
The updates to Google Photos really focused on sharing photos – both digital and (gasp!) physical photos.
The announcement, Suggested Sharing, will remind/encourage/nag you to share photos with various contacts, depending upon a variety of things. The sharing algorithm takes into account who you normally share photos with, who is in your photos, and if you and other contacts were in physical proximity of each other. You can share to Google Photos users on both Android and iOS, and people you share photos with will be encouraged to add their own photos to a specific album. While it sounds creepy, it’s actually kind of neat, and the user gets final say in exactly which photos are shared.
Google also announced Shared Libraries, where you can set up automatic sharing to a specific contact (spouse, family, etc.). You can share all your photos or a subset – share only photos with your child with your spouse, for example, and all your other photos would not be shared. The Shared Libraries photos would be included in all search results and album.
Somewhat bizarrely (at least to me) Google also announced a Photo Book service, where you can order physical books of photographs from Google. The twist – you can select a large number of photos and Google will try and pick the “best” photos to include in the book (you can override Google’s suggestions, though). $10 for a softcover book and $20 for a hardcover book. Google will also suggest collections of photos for Photo Books.
Google Lens will be incorporated into photos and can identify things like buildings, automatically call businesses, or get directions to specific locations. It can even do these things on photos that you have taken in the past.
Additionally, it looks like Photos may get some pretty incredible automatic obstruction removal. The example picture of a baseball player taken through a fence was pretty impressive.
Google will be releasing a fully standalone VR headset. No phone, wires, or computer needed. This will also feature improved position tracking without the need for beacons or external sensors. Both HTC and Lenovo will be building devices that will be available later this year.
The Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus will be adding Daydream support this summer with a software update. The new LG flagship phone will also feature Daydream support.
Google’s Project Tango is partnering with Google Maps to create VPS – Visual Positioning Service – to help users navigate indoors, where GPS and cell tower location technology doesn’t work well. The demo video for this showed navigating a Lowes in search of a specific product and was also pretty neat.
There were some other things mentioned, too, like Youtube getting 360-degree video on TV (using a remote with an accelerometer to look around) and Live Youtube 360 coming soon.
Also, Google Search results now include rich job listings with the ability to filter by date, job title, and commute times.
If you want to watch the video of the keynote you can see it on Youtube (actual keynote starts at 0:36).
I was a bit disappointed in the lack of mention of things like Chromebooks, Android TV, and Android Auto upgrades, but there are still two whole days of events, so who knows what else Google has in store!