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Google I/O 2015: Keynote Highlights

May 28, 2015 - Written By Justin Diaz

Google’s long awaited I/O 2015 keynote speech is over, and with it Google talked a lot about the new things we can expect coming from Android. A huge focal point during the speech was dedicated to Android M, which will be available as a developer preview beginning today for the Nexus 5, Nexus 6, Nexus 9, and the Nexus Player for users with those devices to test out before the software will launch later this Fall, and the downloads are already live and available. Android M will include lots of new stuff, but one of the most intriguing points is the upcoming new feature called Now on Tap, a function which is built on Google Now.

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The idea of Now on Tap is to help assist users in the moment by giving them quick, relevant information without having to leave the apps that they’re in. Now on Tap will be able to read the screen with whatever users are doing when they press and hold the home button, which can then feed them relevant Google Now cards. For example, if you’re searching or browsing a website about movies, and then you press and hold the home button to bring up Now on Tap, you can get Google Now cards with information on theaters and showing times. Other key areas of focus with Android M will be on permissions controls and battery life.

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With Android M, users will now be asked to accept permissions from apps once they open the app and try to use them instead of during the installation process. With battery life, a new feature called Doze will watch when users aren’t actually using their devices, and will then proceed to start shutting down applications to conserve battery life. During the Keynote, Google stated that they had tested this feature out on a Nexus 9 tablet which helped them get up to two times the battery life than a Nexus 9 without Doze working on it.

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Another big focus during the keynote was Google’s long-anticipated mobile payment system, which is appropriately named, ‘Android Pay.’ Google’s new mobile payment system had been rumored before the event with mentions that it would be showing up at the keynote for an unveiling, and sure enough Google finally took the wraps off Android Pay to officially unveil it to the world. Android Pay is aimed at giving users choices that are secure and simple to use. It will work at over 700,000 retailers in the U.S. at launch, and users can either pay for goods in stores using their devices with the Android Pay app, or through online merchants using the apps of those retailers. It’s built using two types of technology, host card emulation as well as NFC, and users only need unlock their device from a sleep state and then tap the NFC to a POS checkout system to make payments for goods. No entering another code to unlock payments like with Google Wallet. It’s also going to be pre-installed in multiple devices in the future on carriers like T-Mobile, Verizon and AT&T. To help make things more secure with Android Pay, Google is building native fingerprint reader support right into Android M, however Android Pay itself will be compatible with devices running on Kit Kat and forward.

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Android Wear was also discussed at the keynote, and while there are currently seven Android Wear devices out on the market, Google confirmed that there will be many more Android Wear devices available by the end of the year. They’re also working to bring even more apps to Android Wear including Uber, Foursquare, and Citymapper alongside the already 4,000 available applications.

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Google will be making big strides with the Internet of Things this year, as they have officially announced ‘Brillo’ and ‘Weave’, which are Google’s Internet of Things platform and the communication layer for IoT devices respectively. Project was built from and derived from Android, and has been scaled down and polished to work on devices with a very minimal footprint. It supports Bluetooth low energy so Brillo devices can draw less power through Bluetooth, and they’ll be WiFi supported so they can connect to local networks allowing any other connected devices that support Brillo to talk to them. Brillo devices and Weave devices will also be capable of being auto-detected by Android devices to make the whole experience as seamless as possible for users. Expect Brillo and Weave to make their debut with a launch in Q3 and Q4 respectively.

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Google also officially unveiled the new Google Photos app, which is going live today for users. Photos is meant to focus on three key things, giving users a home for all their photos and videos, helping users organize all those stored photos and bringing those moments to life, and finally making it easy to share the best moments with others. This includes things like being able to automatically backup your photos from multiple devices like smartphones, tablets, memory cards, and computers, and even auto-sync with Google Drive. Once those pictures/videos are stored, Google uses machine learning to intelligently organize everything into specific groups like people, places, and the things that matter most to the user. To help keep things secure and personal, the organization is private, and to make it simple it’s automatic so users won’t have to worry about it grouping things up on their own. New functions users can expect with Google photos are things like link share, allowing the ability to share links with people to view a collection of photos, which can strictly be viewed if users aren’t logged in. However, if users are logged in they will be able to see a button that allows them to download the entire shared collection into their own Google Photos library. Sharing large collections like this is being made much more simple with the introduction of the drag-to-select functionality, meaning users can touch the screen once and without lifting their finger off the display, drag around the screen to select all the photos and videos they want to share.

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As previously thought virtual reality was a focus topic during the speech, as Google unveiled some new initiatives to help make use of Google Cardboard and VR in classrooms with a new tool for teachers called ‘Expeditions,’ which lets teachers control a virtual field trip from an Android device which students can then connect to using Google Cardboard. Expeditions is available for teachers to sign up for today. Students and teachers aren’t the only ones getting some fun new Cardboard related material though, as Google also announced a new design for the cardboard unit, which now supports devices with displays up to 6-inches and cardboard comes with a new input button, and it also now support iOS. Google wants to make capturing VR video easier as they see what’s possible with VR now as just the beginning, so they have partnered up with GoPro to unveil a new camera device that record 360-degree video, comprised of three pieces, the camera rig itself, the assembler tool which houses all the cameras, and the actual camera players. Google is calling this ‘Jump’ and GoPro will be manufacturing a small Jump-ready kit for consumers, while Google makes plans for the rig available later on this Summer.