This year's Google I/O was a bit divisive. There are those who are utterly hyped for everything Google announced and say that they're going to revolutionize everything they touch, then there are those who say that Google didn't really do anything groundbreaking and, in essence, announced a number of refinements or "Googly" spins on current tech. In their own way, both camps are actually right. Google did announce a huge number of revolutionary projects, but they're all iterations, "Google-izing", if you will, of what's currently out there. Just as the Apple of the late 90s and early 2000s made a name for themselves by refining everyday objects into their most aesthetically pleasing and simplest forms, Google has announced, in essence, that they will be making a large number of mundane things, such as cars, smartphones and VR headsets, as high-tech, extensible, developer-friendly and, well, asGoogly as possible.
Google has always been known for big, bold, daring projects, planting their feet firmly on unexplored ground and trampling it until competitors could walk there. While Google doesn't always invent the wheel, so to speak, they often reinvent it. You may be reading this on something that speaks to that mentality; an Android device. When Google looked at the phones of yore, they said, "There's got to be something better." When they found out that was the same thing Andy Rubin said, they joined forces and mobile history was made. When they looked at the niche that was virtual reality, they said, "There has to be something that can get this to go mainstream and get developers on board." That mental statement brought about Cardboard. Seeing a pattern here?
As for brand new things, Google has basically relegated their outright creationism to moonshot projects. While Chrome OS may have been the ultimate boiling-down of cloud-based personal computing and the Chromecast may have been the ultimate boiling-down of the media streaming apparatus, it's unlikely anybody else was doing internet balloons before Project Loon came about, or doing clothing that could control electronics before Jacquard. While some moonshots, like self-driving cars, Project Ara and Calico may tread familiar ground, they tread it in the Googliest way possible – using unconventional approaches that bring together high-tech and new ideas in a way that only a high-powered, deep-pocketed tech firm with oodles of talent would be able to.
As for Google's announcements from this year's I/O themselves, it's easy to see where the inspiration comes from and how Google plans to innovate. Most of what Google plans to do centers on A.I. and machine learning, but they also dabble in innovative hardware design and quality-focused approaches with the goal of upstaging technically superior products. If you've followed the I/O coverage, you likely know exactly what projects each part of that last sentence referred to, and thatProject Ara brings innovation and personalization in the smartphone space to their logical extreme, leveraging Google's talent pool, tech and know-how to create something previously unthinkable; plug and play capability for core components like the camera and additional batteries. Google Home takes the full-home IoT controller and assistant concept that's being toyed with by the likes of Samsung and Amazon and plans to use Google's super-advanced A.I. to refine it to an art form.
The fact that Google gave attendees a massive amount, over half their ticket price, of credit for their cloud IaaS platform says all that anybody really needs to know about the nature of the things announced at Google I/O 2016. Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer put it the most succinctly it will ever be put years ago, to the tune of a stamping foot; "Developers, developers, developers, developers!" While Google is building out their own platforms and leveraging their own tech, most of it depends on developers or outside parties of one shade or another. Their self-driving project becoming a commercial success depends on adoption by manufacturers. Ara becoming a success depends on people making modules for it. Daydream becoming a success depends on people making apps and games for it. Between outside support and Google's own back-of-the-house creations, both camps, as said above, are right; Google is about to completely reinvent the wheel, the box, the stick and a ton of other basic inventions in a way that literally nobody else could ever hope to, but the fact remains that those inventions already exist.