Google I/O 2016: Google Assistant, Instant Apps, VR And More

Sundar Pichai, Google's CEO, took the stage and introduced the tenth Google I/O by saying there are around 7,000 people watching the keynote right in front of him. He also mentioned that there are over 1,000,000 people watching the keynote from China, which is the largest Google I/O audience this year. It is worth mentioning that Google is hosting this keynote out in the open this year, which is a considerable change compared to previous years. Google's CEO continued talking about Google Search, and how it improved over the years, while he took Google Photos as an example, by mentioning the company's search feature within the app. If you search for 'hugs', for example, the app will pull up all the pics and / or videos in which someone is hugging.

Mr. Pichai used Google Search as an example in order to talk about AI, and has introduced Google Assistant. Google has been pushing contextual search for a while now, and Google Assistant is the culmination of it. Google Assistant seems to be quite smart when it comes to contextual communication. Let me give you an example, you'll be able to ask Google Assistant 'what is playing tonight?', and it will suggest a couple of movies playing in cinemas nearby. After that, you can continue talking about it with Google Assistant, without having to mention the name of the movie or anything of the sort, and it will even ask you if you'd like it to get you tickets for the movie you want to check out, and make everything ready for you to attend the screening. This is just a narrow example, Google Assistant seems to be quite powerful and smart, and there are countless examples, the conversation can go in a number of different ways.

The company has introduced their first hardware product at Google I/O 2016, the Google Home. This is essentially a Google Assistant wrapped up in a nice, minimalistic body which resembles a small speaker of sorts, and it actually is a small speaker by the way. This device is customizable, you can exchange its bottom part and make it look completely different, if that's what you want. This device supports Google Cast, of course, so you can connect it to your other devices. You can make Google Home play something on your smart TV, if that's what you want, or get it to play music for you through its speaker or on any other connected device in your home. This device is basically a hub for smart devices in your home, including Nest, Chromecast, your smart TV... and so on. This device also integrates with third-party sites in order to help you do things, and Google is working with third-party developers in order to expand Google Home's reach. Google said that many more features are on the way, and that the company will continue developing Google Home in order to make it do great things. The device will be available later this year, says Google, and if you're interested, you can visit google.com/home for more information, and also sign up to get more information as they come.

Sundar Pichai came back to the stage and started talking about Google Photos, a service which was introduced at Google I/O last year. He said that over 200 million users are currently using this service. Google Photos' success was only a pathway for the company to announce 'Allo', the company's new smart messaging app which is based on your phone number. This app has some nice features, Google has introduced 'Whisper' and 'Shout', which is essentially a way for you to make the text smaller or bigger before you send it, and you achieve that by swiping up or down on a particular part of the display. You can also write and draw on images, but that's not the most important feature of this app. When someone asks you if you're interested in having a dinner later, Allo will automatically offer you two options to respond, and will actually learn over time. Now, the same thing applies for images, when someone sends you a picture of a cute dog, for example, you'll be offered several options, one of which is 'Cute dog!', for example. Same goes for food images, Allo will offer you several answers like 'Yummy!', or 'I love fish' (if fish is on the plate).

Google Assistant is actually built into Allo, so if someone says they love Italian food, Allo will offer to search for places nearby which offer Italian food, and many more options will come out of it, so you can basically make a reservation within Allo app. This seems to work really well, it's simple and seamless, you do everything within Allo without having to open a number of other apps to make reservations and what not. Google has once again mentioned that they will include third-party developers into the process, which will help the company grow. Now, in order to give you more example of what Google Assistant within Allo can do, you can type in 'funny cat pics' in a conversation, and the app will pull app various pictures containing funny cats, essentially. Now, you can even play a game with Google Assistant within Allo, all you have to do is ask, and that's it.

After talking about Allo and Google Assistant, the company has introduced a new app called 'Duo'. So, what is Duo? Well, it is a video calling application, essentially. When someone video calls you, you'll be able to see the person, even before you answer. Duo has been created by the team WebRTC, and it uses a new protocol called 'QUIC', and Google says that makes it really smooth and improves performance overall. This app will actually constantly check your internet connection in order to provide the best experience for you considering how good or bad is your connection. Google has announced that both Allo and Google will become available later this summer on Android and iOS.

Next up is Android, Google's mobile operating system, and the most popular mobile operating system in the world. Google points out that they now have 12 partner brands for Android Wear, and continued talking about Android Auto and Google Play, pointing out that there are over 100 Android Auto brands out there already, and that the Google Play Store has seen 65 billion installs on the Google Play Store thus far.

As you all know, the first Android N Developer Preview has been announced a couple of months back, and Google says that they're overjoyed by the response thus far. Android N still doesn't have a name, and if you'd like to suggest one to Google, you can do that by visiting the android.com/n website. Vulkan API has been one of the bigger improvements in Android N, and Google has decided to talk more about it, and actually demo a Need For Speed game in order to show Vulkan's graphics performance. Android Runtime has also been improved by Google in Android N, while Android JIT compiler is also here to make things a lot faster, you'll be able to install apps 75% faster thanks to Android JIT.

In addition to everything mentioned above, Android N introduces file-based encryption and improved media framework hardening. Google has also said that the 'Android is upgrading' dialog will be gone in Android N thanks to JIT compiler, which will make things immensely faster in the compiling department. Google has continued talking about security, and has mentioned Chrome and Google Play Store security which the company is constantly improving. The Google Play Store is built on the cloud-based 'SafetyNet' infrastructure which is basically a state of the art security system for the Google Play Store, at least according to Google. The company has also talked a bit about the productivity of Android N, mostly about its overview screen and multitasking in general, which is mostly stuff we've already seen back when Google introduced the first Android N Developer Preview. The company has briefly mentioned the 'multi-window' and 'picture-in-picture' mode, which we're all looking forward to. Android N, as most of you know, will bring improved notifications, and the redesigned notification shade in general. Android N will be able to update itself in the background, to an extent. The company has announced that they're getting ready to release the true beta release of Android N for consumers to try out before Android N lands later in the summer, and the Android N Developer Preview 3 is also here for you to try out if you want.

Virtual Reality is up next, Head of Google's VR department is on the stage. Google says that Google Cardboard has been a great start for the company, but that it's time to step up their game. Google has introduced 'Daydream', a new platform VR, which will be available in the fall. Google says that Daydream will require phones to feature great displays, particular sensors and a powerful SoC in order to bring great VR experience, and on top of all that, great software in the form of Android. The Mountain View giant says that a number of companies will have Daydream-compatible devices this fall, including Samsung, HTC, and a number more. Google continued the press conference by talking about the VR controller which they've been working on, and which will work in collaboration with Daydream, VR headset and the Daydream-compatible smartphone. Google will share VR headset and controller reference design with their partners, in order for all the pieces to be ready by this fall.

Daydream will have a home hub once you fire it up where you'll be able to access various content. Google has announced a number of partners for Daydream which will provide Daydream-compatible content, like EA and Ubisoft, for example. Street View will be available on Daydream, and Google Photos will also support Daydream, not to mention you'll able to watch movies through Daydream (through Google Movies and YouTube). You'll actually be able to watch standard videos from YouTube through Daydream, and even though those are not true VR videos, they'll be completely different through VR, says Google.

VR part of Google I/O is over, it's time to talk about wearables. As previously mentioned, Google has partnered up with 12 companies in order to release Android Wear-powered smartwatches. Some of those partners have released sleek, modern devices, while other have opted for more rugged watches. Google has also decided to introduce Android Wear 2.0, an all-new version of Google's wearables platform. Google will allow any watchface to show data from any app in order to give you more control over what you see on your smartwatch, and make it far more useful at the same time. Smart Reply, Handwriting and a new full Keyboard are coming in Android Wear 2.0 as well. These three options basically give you even more control over your replies and will make you use it more overall. Google Fit is getting an even deeper integration with Android Wear in v2.0, and apps like Strava will start fitness tracking once you start running, and you don't need to have your phone on you, in fact, your phone doesn't even have to be turned on wherever it is. Standalone applications will also going to be a part of Android Wear 2.0, which means that they'll be able to connect to the network directly, without the need for a smartphone whatsoever. The Android Wear 2.0 will be available in the fall as well, and will be compatible with both Android and iOS.

Google talked more about Web Apps and Accelerated Mobile Pages which improve overall experience when it comes to surfing the internet. Google says that 92% of top 125 Android apps use Android Studio at this point, and the company also said that the Android Studio 2.2 preview will be available starting today. The company said that you can make changes 10x faster than before, and tests with an emulator are 3x times faster in Android Studio 2.2. Google will provide faster build speeds, and 'Test Recording' will also going to be available, which is a way for Google to help you when it comes to writing code in Android Studio. Layout Designer will help you design the app properly using drag-and-drop functions, and the company has also said that the app will run faster with help from Android Studio 2.2, due to smart coding which runs in the background. APK analyzer is also included in Android Studio 2.2 which will help you see how big will the app be, while Layout Inspector is also here, and the company has included an Expanded Android code analysis as well. The new version of Android Studio will come with an enhanced Jack compiler / Java8 support, and also sports an enhanced C++ support.

On top of Android Studio 2.2, Google has also introduced the next-gen Firebase tool which features a new analytics tool called 'Firebase Analytics'. It is designed for 'the unique needs of apps', says Google. It will give you all sorts of insight when it comes to consumers who use your apps, and it's also worth mentioning that Firebase Analytics works on both Android and iOS, and is completely free. Firebase Crash Reporting is now also a part of Firebase, which will help with bug reports and similar problems. There are all sorts of improvements (over a dozen features overall) in the next-gen Firebase, and everything is integrated with Google's Cloud platform.

Google went on to talk about something called 'Android Instant Apps'. So what is this? Well, this feature will essentially let you run Android apps which are not installed on your device, well, in a way. If someone sends you a particular link from an Android app, Android will fetch only a part of the app you need from the Google Play Store, a screen containing a video, for example. Let me give you a particular example, if you Google a certain item via Google on B&H, for example, you'll be able to click on a link on Google and thanks to Android Instant Apps you'll be able to enjoy a part of the B&H apps containing the item you wanted to open on Google Search. On top of all that, you'll be able to purchase that item from there, even though Android downloaded only a part of the app, all the necessary pieces are there. Keep in mind that 'Instant Apps' are a work in progress at the moment, and we still don't know when exactly will this feature be available, but it sure sounds exciting. Google actually demoed this feature during the keynote using a smartphone which is running Android 4.4 KitKat, and the compatibility will go back all the way to Andriod 2.3 Gingerbread, says Google.

Sundar Pichai is back on stage, and is getting ready to wrap up Google's keynote. Before that happens, he has decided to talk more about Google's Cloud Platform and how machine learning is progressing at an incredible rate. Mr. Pichai has talked more about AlphaGO, Google's AI creation which managed to beat the world champion in GO, one of the most complex games in the world, which represents a great success for AI in general. With that being said, Sundar Pichai has wrapped up this year's Google I/O keynote which was filled with exciting tech announcements. Needless to say, Google I/O 2016 is not over, not even close to that, Google will host separate developer conferences in order to focus on everything they talked about today, in detail, as it's the case every year.

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About the Author
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Kristijan has been writing for Android Headlines since 2014 and is an editor for the site. He has worked as a writer for several outlets before joining Android Headlines, and has a background in writing about Android and technology in general. He is a smartphone enthusiast that specializes in Android applications, and that platform in general. Contact him at Kristijan. [email protected]