Big Browser is Searching for You: 3 Things You Need to Know about Google I/O
We tend to agree with the general feeling that this year’s Google I/O was underwhelming . Several announcements introduced new or updated products and tools that will keep Google competitive with Apple and Microsoft. But while what we saw was often technically dazzling, there were no big surprises.
We sent Kevin Smouts, Senior Analyst for Fabernovel US, to the conference to get the inside scoop on its major themes: a return to Google’s core strength as a leader in machine learning , and a big push toward a full-stack IoT strategy that positions Google as a leader in the world of connected devices.
Machine Learning is advancing toward Artificial Intelligence
The most-discussed announcement of the event was likely Google Now on Tap , an upgrade to Android's personal assistant software that brings the power of Google’s machine learning research to your phone. The new release of Google Now, which will only be available on Android M (due out later this year), combines smart app indexing with beefed-up speech recognition to provide a contextual search experience that many commentators see as transformative ( though some find it creepy ).
The other revamping that has many talking is the new Google Photos. The new standalone photo app promises unlimited photo storage and a long-awaited severance from Google Plus , which never caught on with users. The split also means that Google Photos will now be free to support other social apps. What’s really exciting, however, is the smart search feature, which makes it possible to use a text search to locate images in untagged photos .
Google is offering a compelling stack for developers of the Internet of Things
Google is not the first company to make a play for an IoT platform, but the suite of technologies announced or expanded upon at Google I/O push them to the front of the pack. Brillo, Google’s minified version of the Android operating system for connected devices , had been announced earlier in 2015, but we learned more about it at Google I/O. Brillo is a super lightweight version of the Android OS designed for ‘smart’ devices with small processors and low memory. This makes it perfect not only for the Nest connected home devices for which it was developed but the many cloud-connected electronics to come in the future, from door locks to speakers to automated pet food systems, and likely many things yet to be conceived.
The announcement at Google I/O of Weave, a standard protocol for inter-device communication, is a smart play . Weave effectively extends Brillo’s reach by enabling Brillo devices to communicate seamlessly with connected objects running on another platform. Though the information Google has shared about Weave is still very high-level, it’s clear that Google’s blueprint for IoT data is both a play for control in the IoT revolution and an acknowledgment that the openness and flexibility made possible by common language are key to growth. By establishing a set of standards for device communication that works across platforms, Google is helping to ensure that Android devices will remain relevant even if another IoT operating system takes the lead.
Material Design is becoming a huge part of Google’s strategy . By extending the reach of Material Design from web and mobile to wearables and cars, the engineering giant is moving as close as we are likely to see it to a design-first strategy.
Though we were disappointed by the lack of new announcements on Google’s car project, Google I/O did bring some other other cool announcements that foreshadow a fully-connected future. We’d particularly like to see more about Project Jacquard, a technology that allows conductive yarns to be woven together into everyday textiles to create touch and gesture-sensitive areas in things like clothing and furniture .
The Jacquard announcement was one of several to come from Google’s Advanced Technologies and Projects (ATAP) lab headed up by former DARPA Director Regina Dugan. Other interesting announcements from the ATAP team included Project Vault, a tiny encryption device that works like a regular storage card, and Project Soli, a tiny radar sensor that turns your hands into the user interface.
Although the ATAP projects announced last week offer some compelling possibilities, for now their development is limited to Google’s internal teams and a few selected partners. We’re looking forward to the day when Google makes these technologies available to the larger developer community.