Google I/O is the company’s yearly developer conference, and it’s a place that many people would love to attend each year, but just aren’t able to. Since Google moved from Moscone West in San Francisco, to the Shoreline Amphitheater in Mountain View, they have made the event much larger than before. In fact what’s interesting about the Shoreline Amphitheater is that the majority of Google I/O – including the Sandboxes, other stages and such – are in the parking lots outside of the actual venue. But having a much larger venue for Google I/O means that Google is able to invite many more press to the event, as well as bring in more developers. I went to Google I/O in 2015, the last year they were at Moscone West, and compared to 2017 at the Shoreline Amphitheater, Google I/O has become a much larger beast.
As it does every year, Google I/O began day one with a keynote hosted by the company’s CEO, Sundar Pichai. The keynote was scheduled to be about 90 minutes but ended up being closer to two hours. That’s still shorter than it had been in previous years (some being over 3 hours long). Google decided to take out a lot of the more developer-focused announcements from the main keynote and have a separate developer keynote after lunch on the first day. This was likely aimed at the press, as a lot of the developer announcements do go over our head. But it also gave everyone a chance to run out and use the bathroom, and grab lunch before coming back for the second keynote.
The keynote had plenty of announcements, but of course the big theme was artificial intelligence and machine learning. Google, as expected, announced some new features and API’s for Google Assistant. For starters, the demo that Google used was the fact that you can talk to Panera and order your food through Google Assistant and have it delivered, without even going to Panera’s website. With Google Assistant, they also made it easier to find apps and services that work with Google Assistant, similar to what Alexa has with her Skills section in her app. Probably one of the more overlooked announcements in Google Assistant is the fact that you can now type to the assistant, instead of always speaking to it. Making it easier to use without the whole world knowing what you’re saying. And of course, Google Assistant came to the iPhone.
Android Go was another big part of the keynote. It’s basically looking to be the next evolution of Android One. Instead of Google working with manufacturers to make cheaper handsets running stock Android, they are making Android leaner for these lower-end devices. Android Go is made to run on devices with as little as 1GB of RAM, by making many parts of the OS more lightweight and they even have many of the larger apps available for Android Go which are more lightweight and use less resources, making it great for these cheaper devices. This is the continuation of Google looking to reach the next billion users. Google did also mention that there are now 2 billion people using Android around the world. Considering there are just over 7 billion people in the world, that’s a pretty significant number of people using Android.
After the keynote, the huge crowd of people exited the Amphitheater and headed out to get some lunch. Afterwards, many started hitting up the many sandboxes, which were in these huge tents in the parking lot. One of the more interesting demos was the Android + Audi and Android + Volvo demos. Basically, Audi and Volvo had taken Android Auto and turned it into a full-fledged infotainment system for their respective vehicles. So instead of taking your phone to your car and plugging it in, you are simply interacting with an Android interface, but with a skin on top. In fact, most people likely wouldn’t even know it was Android. But it does all the usual things you’d expect. Like streaming music, navigating and much more. Now that wasn’t all for Android Auto. They were also showing off Waze on Android Auto, which is going to be launching in Beta “soon.” There was no word on when exactly. But it’ll be an option for Android Auto users, instead of having to stick with Google Maps. And finally, the ability to use Android Auto wirelessly. So that means over Bluetooth instead of plugging in your smartphone. This is actually not as simple as it sounds, as it needs to be enabled by Google’s partners (so Pioneer, Audi, Ford, Chevrolet, etc), and it won’t be enabled for everyone when it’s complete.
Google Assistant was also shown off in the Sandboxes this year. They were showing it off on different devices like the Pixel, LG G6, Samsung Galaxy S8 and even the iPhone. They were also showing developers how they can get started with Actions on Google Assistant and make their app work with Assistant. Speaking of Google Assistant, Deeplocal was there showing off their project they made with the Assistant SDK – It’s Mocktails Mixer. Basically, inside there is a Raspberry Pi that has the Assistant installed and it mixes and pours you a drink. Now the cool thing here is that the Assistant will get better over time thanks to Machine Learning, but you can also set it up to pour specific drinks, and even add your own jokes to it. One of my favorite jokes that Deeplocal had added was “what did the C++ programmer say to the C Programmer? You have no class,” that’s a joke that developers will really only get though.
Rounding out day one, Google had quite a few things happening “After Hours.” There was plenty of food to go around, with different cuisine available as well. There was a Comedy Club, a VR Drive-In, a pizza party and a few other fun events going on once it got dark at Google I/O. It was a good way for everyone to relax and still have some fun at Google I/O before heading back to their hotels for the night, and before day two got underway.
Speaking of day two, that kicked off with the AR/VR Keynote in the morning. This is where Clay Bavor, who’s the head of Google’s virtual reality ambitions, took the stage and talked about the future of both Tango and Daydream. He reiterated a lot of points that were mentioned in the first keynote. But this keynote did also mention that Daydream 2.0 is coming later this fall. And in this update, Google Cast support is coming, as well as Chrome, among other things. On the AR side of things, the ASUS ZenFone AR is making its way to store shelves this summer, and hitting Verizon in the fall. The rest of the day was mostly full of different sessions and such, with the Android Fireside chat capping things off for the day. The Android Fireside chat is where people – usually developers – can come in and ask the Googlers that work on Android some questions about the platform, but they won’t talk about the future, as those things can change, and often do. Some of the questions were in regards to Kotlin, but they did also mention that now graphics drivers can be updated through the Google Play Store, which can be a pretty big deal – especially since a lot of security issues have been due to graphics drivers in recent security patches.
The second day capped off with lots of food, as well as a concert by Holy Ghost and LCD SoundSystem. It was a great time at the Shoreline Amphitheater, at Google I/O 2017. But while you’re in Mountain View, and literally right next to the Googleplex, you can’t not make the walk over there. It’s about a 10-15 minute walk from the Shoreline Amphitheater, and definitely worth it. Google’s campus is massive (and they are actually under construction as they are adding onto the campus) as expected. With lots of cool looking Android statues. Last year, Google moved the Android Statues over to the Visitor Center Beta and the Google Merchandise Store. Inside the Google Merchandise Store, you’ll find just about anything with a Google logo on it. From t-shirts, to hoodies, to pens, to backpacks, and even dog toys. The prices are actually not too bad, I was expecting a slight markup, with them being Google merchandise.
It was another great show for Google at their annual developers conference, and according to many that attended in 2016, the infrastructure was much larger this year (making less room for the sea of people to get around), and it was also much better put together, instead of just a mess – especially when it came to logistics. Sure there weren’t a lot of consumer-focused announcements at Google I/O this year, but that is also to be expected, since Google I/O is actually a developers conference and not a regular press conference. But it is still nice to see announcements like Android O, Android Go, Daydream and more.