Google’s new CEO, Sundar Pichai, makes it very clear in his profile piece with Forbes
“We have this vision of a shift from mobile-first to an AI-first world over many years”
This theme can be seen in a lot of the announcements today. Google want to move beyond search and become an assistant. One that learns and understands you, taking part in natural two way dialog via the Google assistant platform.
As a product centrepiece to this vision is the Google Home device. Unashamedly following in Amazon’s footsteps from the Echo, the Google Home is an always listening device with a speaker that can respond to voice requests starting with “Ok, Google” or “Hey, Google”.
Google Home looks to realise much of the functionality of the Google assistant Platform, and supports other Google home and living room products such as Nest thermostats & smoke detectors, Android TVs & Chrome Cast devices.
Desperately missing from the announcement is how open the device might be for developers. This is obviously a product still some time away from release to both consumers and developers. A smattering of partners were announced, but strangely missing were home automation partners like LIFx and WeMo. The device is expected to ship later in the year.
Somewhat consistent with the theme are the messaging and video calling apps Allo and Duo. Perhaps a final attempt to have an established messaging platform, this time leveraging the strength Google have built around AI in the Google assistant platform.
Virtual Reality – Daydream
Also standout at today’s keynote was Google’s commitment to VR with Daydream, built on Android N. A reference headset, coupled with a motion controller, will become a model for hardware partners to work towards. Daydream is the platform consisting of three main components:
- Smartphones – Android N components and device guidelines
- Reference design – for headset and controller
- Beautiful apps – for a great VR experience
The Android N preview features were iterated over by Dave Birk and provided no surprises. Android Studio received some updates which we’ll dig into over the next few days. Android Wear also hit 2.0 with a natural evolution towards being able to use devices totally independently from the phone.
Thankfully the final Android surprise came with some very interesting technology called Android Instant Apps. Instant Apps allows users to use a piece of a native app without having it first installed. Essentially a frictionless deep-linked native experience for a single task. The example demonstrated was being able to purchase a camera from the B&H Android app from a search without first installing it.
Android Instant App provides a great way to reduce friction for users onto native apps. Unfortunately Android Instant App is not yet released and I doubt we will get any more technical details during this conference. Current plans are for it to be released later this year.
The Firebase platform received a huge bump to 2.0 and brings together a bunch of support tooling for app development across iOS, Android and web. Google’s Device Test Lab has been rolled into Firebase for running tests on Android devices during development and as a pre-check prior to app launch. Crash reporting is also brought together and offered to both iOS and Android apps. Similar cross platform mobile features are remote configuration, which provides the ability to turn on/off features in your apps remotely from the server.
With the exit of Parse after the Facebook acquisition, Firebase is fast becoming a very convenient “one-stop shop” backend for a wide range of common mobile app needs. Google looks to be capitalising on the gap in the market that Parse’s demise has created.
With Odecee eyes on the ground at Google I/O and back at home-base, this week we will be diving further into the details as we learn more about what was (and wasn’t) announced at the keynote. It’s going to be a great few days of Google IO 2016.
This post was written by Daniel Bradby