If you’re a technology fan today is one of the biggest days of the year – the first day of Google’s Annual I/O Conference. In the past its been the place where the future course of Android and Chromebooks as well as Search has been set. The conference runs for three days but the biggest announcements are usually on the first days keynote – and today we got some doozys. Today they chose to hold it outside in an amphitheatre rather than indoors as normal.What did we get?
Google Assistant. A conversational machine learning system that looks to be a combined Amazon Echo, Cortana and Siri. Google say it’s context and location aware – stand in front of a statue and ask “Whats that?” and it will work out where you are and what’s there and look it up and speak to you what it is. Assistant looks a lot more conversational than Google Now and reminds me of a chatbot.
Assistant will be both and app on your Android and iOS phone and a stand alone device. This stand alone device will be called Google Home and it looks almost like a small air freshener.
Home will let you control other speakers in the home via Chromecast and Chromecast Audio. Say “Play Calvin Harris in the living room” and it will. It has a task management system built in tied into Google Calendar. It has IOT smart home control working with Nest and Zigbee. Finally it has conversational search using Assistant.
The system looks very impressive – but there’s no release date or price yet.
Two new apps were announced – Allo. Allo has Assistant built into it and is a Hangouts replacement.
Allo has a number of new features – font sizes, photo messaging with filters and drawing. Smart Reply taken from Inbox is built in and it automatically offers replies that it thinks will be appropriate. This works with pictures as well and offers text responses.
The built in Assistant will offer suggestions and try and help. If you’re discussing food for tonight it can offer you suggestions that will work for both of you, let you pick and then book the table for you. Google demoed watching videos, searching and playing games from within the chat interface.
All messages are encrypted in Allo but there’s a specific End to End version – called incognito – which Google cannot read and which can be time limited.
The second app is called Duo and is an end to end encrypted video stream app. It has a feature called Knock Knock which shows a live video of who is calling you. The idea is that you can see who’d calling you which should cut out nuisance calls entirely. Google claim it’s very reliable and switches from wifi to mobile seamlessly and is cross platform on Android and iOS.
Android came up next with the news that there wasn’t a name for ‘N’ yet. N is including a new graphics engine called Vulcan, file based encryption, media framework hardening and the ability to update in the background without letting the user know. N will have splitscreening and window in window ability which will be great for Android tablet users. None of these or the other things shown off are new announcements – they’ve been in the preview that’s been available for the last few months.
Androids approach to VR was next – Cardboard has been successful but Google is launching a new system called Daydream. This is a system that works on Android and works with a number of headsets, phones and apps. A phone that can handle decent VR will be called ‘Daydream-Ready’ and Android N will have a specific VR mode. This will include everything from games, street-view, photos and productivity apps.
Google are producing a reference VR headset and remote control that will be available later this year but there isn’t much detail on this yet – specifically if it needs a phone in it or if it’s a separate system.
All in all Google gave us a number of things to look forward to – Assistant in all its forms is possibly the most interesting and I’ll be first in line to buy a Home, but there are few definite release dates. The next few months should be interesting.