Google's I/O annual conference is ramping up at San Francisco's Moscone Center. Last year, in the conference keynote, the company took its biggest-yet dive into hardware when it introduced the Nexus 7 tablet, Google Glass, and the ill-fated Nexus Q. The secret is out on Glass, of course: this year, there's a pavilion inside the conference center where I'm sure they'll be showing off applications for it. (Quite a few of the people in the endless lines here are wearing their own, too.) Anticipating the announcements at I/O is practically its own industry, but it's easy to guess that there will be announcements from all the major pots in which Google has its many thousands of (tapping) fingers. Android, search, Chrome, mapping, and all the other ways in which the behemoth of Mountain View is watching what you do. You can watch the keynote talk (talks, really) streamed online from the main conference link above, but this story will be updated with highlights of the announcements, as well with stories that readers contribute. Update: 05/15 16:22 GMT by T : Updates below. Update: 05/15 19:02 GMT by T :Update details: Notes (ongoing) added below on maps, gaming, the Play store, Google+, and more. And, notable, Larry Page is (at this writing) on stage, with an unannounced Q & A session.Front Matter
After some splashy demos of Android apps and Chrome (Pong played with active windows as the playing pieces is one that stuck out) Vic Gundotra, Senior VP opens the show. Welcomes the 6000 people here, and 40,000 people at viewing parties world wide. (More than a million on YouTube, he says.)
Introduces Sundar Pichai SVP: Android, Chrome, Apps, who reviews the time since the PC revolution: Most people used Windows, boring form factors. Starting seven or so years ago, phones, tablets, etc, really jumped. Two pictures from St. Peter's Basilica: John Paul II's funeral, vs. announcement of new pope: In the first, one person is taking a photo with a clamshell phone; in the second, everyone has a phone or tablet out to record the event. Chrome, he says, is now the most popular browser in the world.
Then it's time for more splashy demo: map shows how much of the world has a penetration of less than 10 percent. Bringing the next four and a half billion" online the next theme.
New Android features and APIs:
Hugo Barro, VP, Product Management Android, shows off some of the new features for developers:
- First, an improved Google Maps Android API (v2), with 3-D building outlines, fast scrolling, etc. A fused location provider, more battery efficient, faster -- should mean less waiting for GPS signals etc. for mapping.
- A new API for activity recognition uses various sensors etc. to track and notice things like whether a user is driving, walking, or doing other activities. Looks both very useful and a bit scary; opt-out needs some attention on this front!
- Google+ sign-in updates and cross-platform single-sign-in. Now users "don't have to remember to find and install" certain apps, because signing in and downloading it on one device can activate doing the same on linked devices.
- Google Cloud Messaging came out last year; this year, it's been updated to give more upstream capabilities. Lets you push data from a service to an app. Upstream messaging, GCM to send messages. Syncs notifications (good for developers, but also for users: if you dismiss a notification on one device, it goes away on all account-linked devices.)
Barro also introduces Google Play game services, and some of its features:
- Cloud save; you can finish a game level on one device, and pick up on it on another.
- Achievements, leaderboards to connect players. Demos with World of Goo, shows how one can instantly check one's status among friends (fun), and globally (humbling) for a particular game.
- Multi-player. Feature announced to huge applause, but demo failed, despite the intent to overcome the very things that make multiplayer games hard for mobile. (This room, he says, isn't very "network friendly" -- true, but then, neither is a huge chunk of the world.)
Shows off a new IDE, Android Studio (big applause, just at the name) for a quick demo. Has some neat features; colors used in code, for instance are parsed and shown in thumbnail next to the line that contains it. Devices' screens can be demoed instantly, on the developer's desktop screen, so developers can see how an app will appear on different sized devices, and in different languages, useful for internationalization and cross-platform building.
For a few dollars more (per month)
Chris Yerga, Engineering Director for Android's most exciting announcement: Google Play Music All Access. This is a $9.99/month subscription service, with a 30-day free trial, launching today. Hook: if you start by June 30th, $7.99.
It's an online streaming music app, music organizer, and music suggestion engine.
Personalized recommendations based on listening habits, and eavesdropping on opted-in friends' lists. Yergo demonstrates that the playlist which it can create shows the *upcoming* choices that the AI bots at Google think you'll want to listen to; the look into the upcoming playlist got many happy shouts, even more so when he shows unwanted items in that list just being wiped off the list with gestures.
Linus on Chrome
Notes that When you download a web page, more than 60pct of the stuff downloaded is images and shows some examples of WebP - open source, royalty-free compression -- with similar quality image compression results at 30+ percent smaller than JPEG. It features like transparency, metadata, etc, and "unfortunately also animated images." But video is the real hog; more than animated cat pictures, there's a need to make video smaller. Upson shows H.264 vs VP9 -- for the demo video shown, 343 vs 125MB for equivalent quality; this will be rolling out for YouTube later this year.
Shows a data compression proxy tool with a user-facing chart on Chrome for Mobile, shows how much data you're using (or saving) by turning on a remote data compression tool.
Another: Using HTML5 autocomplete spec, shows a simple checkout system vs. the typical complex one required to buy from any online merchant with whom a user does not already have an account. "Chrome already knows all your payment information," he says. "This is going to make shopping from your phone much, much easier." (And scarier, IMO.)
Cool Chrome demo: Racer: a Multi player, multi-platform game experiment; stylized, overhead view of a slot-car racing setup; all you need to play is a device running Chrome. (Players have only one thing to control: their cars' speed. Go too fast on a curve, and the car flies off.( The coolest part of the demo, is that various devices places next to each other (tables of various sizes, phones) combine to form a single playing screen across the devices.
Mark of the friendly beast, now for kids!
Chris Yerga back on stage to introduce Google Play for Education. Launching in the fall (apps being accepted starting this summer), for "awesome K-12 apps." This is a single purpose, curated sub-store, with all apps intended for primary and secondary education, and approved by / endorsed by groups of teachers, "because teachers trust other teachers," with apps from private developers, schools, government entities like NASA. Sounds nice, in some ways, but also takes every kid in the schools covered having a Google account, and being part of Google groups. This will take a lot of opt-in-by-proxy. Google does a lot of things well, but should kids be required to have accounts with a particular company to use software required for education? Even with vetting, malware in this context looks particularly troubling.
6,000 new toys, all alike.
Looks like attendees at this year's I/O will land a Pixel laptop running ChromeOS.
Google+ at the age of a late-stage toddler
New design for Google+, and "41 new features," rolling out this afternoon.
User-facing features included Animated sliding menus, animated windows, and other such UI candy.
More depth to be made available through automatic tagging applied by Google to posts; "We also then rank and search the entire universe of Google Plus content, and we rank it just for you."
This automatic hashtagging includes not just text scanning for content, but image recognition; coupled with landmark recognition engine that already exists, a photo of the Eiffel tower is automatically recognized; clicking on that photo can being you to more Eiffel-tower related photos. A little spooky.
You will always have the option of telling Google, either on a particular post, or globally" whether you want to opt-out of all this automatic scanning, tagging, and ranking.
Re: richer communications: "Frankly, even Google's services have been fragmented." Introducing today, new Google+ Hangout app, broken out from general Google+ service. Demo shows how new standalone app by default shows a list of conversations, "not contacts." Group or one-on-one. Contacts are "one tap away," if you want a different lens. The conversations can be long lasting; you can have a group conversation with lots of people, photos, etc. "Of course we give you the ability to turn off history!" Photos attached to conversations are stored in albums. Shown (the slipped-in applause line) on iOS, in a web browser, and on Android.
New features include, too, group video at no charge. And, with the tagline "your darkroom is now a datacenter," cloud-based photo management, with tools for photo retouching and editing, not just storage / backup.
New Auto-Enhance tool which throws photos against a wall of image enhancement algorithms (for tonal distribution, noise reduction, vignetting, sharpening, etc.) A bit like Instagram in simplicity, but with the intent to make photos look "just right" rather than "vintage." Slightly creepy, to have the equivalent of an automatic airbrush on photos.
Somewhat creepier, an automatic highlights-reel creator that does a different kind of automatic enhancement: feed it a few hundred photographs, and AI bots look for smiling faces, good focus, etc, and Google tells you which ones to leave on the cutting-room floor. A nice triage step, but one that will need human scanning in case your opinion differs from the Google AI.
Finally, Auto Awesome: "creates a new image that did not exist!" -- scans for similar, related photos, creates mini movies of them.
The available gratis storage for Google accounts has this week gone to 15 GB rather than free. That will be a lot of storage for some people (my mom), not so much for others (you know who you are). All these neat back-end photo enhancement tools require as much bandwidth as it takes to transmit your photos up and down whatever pipe you're using for that, though. Local photo manipulation isn't going away; it's just being nudged gently by the online adjuncts.
Amit Singhal announces what he says is "the end of search as we know it"; the upshot is moving to natural language (whether typed ina search box or spoken into a mic), emphasizing intuition and eroding the need for special searching tricks.
Coolest new thing about search: Search by voice coming to all platforms via Chrome. Talk to your computer; let google answer.
Cards (cute, compact single-topic search result capsules) were shown last year, but now enhanced with more categories and examples -- things like games, books, and public transit commute times.
Search & Assist VP Johanna Wright steps up to demo this voice feature, labeled "Hotwording." "OK Google, show me things to do in Santa Cruz" gets search results richer than plain google search, and "OK Google, how far is it from here?" Gets a link to directions and map, Google Maps' version is the nicely formatted direction source, but the search results include other on-topic hits, too. I can see some SNL sketches showing everyone mumbling to Google as they walk down the street, on Segways, wearing Glass headsets. "OK Google ... OK Google ... "
You are here, or you are someplace else.
Daniel Graf on next generation of google aps for mobile. Last December, they launched maps on iPhone: "sleek, beautiful, and let's not forget, accurate." [Laughline] Today, announcement / sneak peak at next gen version (due out this summer), for both Android and iOS. "Let's go on a little walk in San Francisco."
3D buildings, smooth scrolling, and a 5-star rating system now integrated across all map products -- phone, web, etc -- as a first-class option.
Also -- nice, but a little pat -- integrating "The Zagat experience" integrated with maps searches, too; because "it's nice to have an expert opinion." Also integrated, and in my view also a bit off-putting, special offers related to searches. Starbucks is one company in on this action "but there are many many more."
Fun stats: Over a million transit stops. 50 billion km of turn-by-turn directions for bikes.
Adding live coverage of incident alerts around the world. Dynamic rerouting; if something happens ahead on a scheduled route, navigation app for smart phones will alert the user.
Mobile today, just just about phones, too: brand now, fully-integrated map interface for tablets. "Explore" option lets you browse maps through categories like Eat, Relax, etc. Empashsis on exploration and discovery.
Adding more and more inside views for buildings.
Maps now better labeled, and more directly -- no more jillions of pins to mouse-over for pop-ups. Searching maps integrating more social data (like looking for places that friends have reviewed positively), and many more businesses now have fly-through photo imagery available.
Public transit options much more prominent, directly on map when looking for directions. Most exciting to me, the new scheduling visualizer shows when trains, buses, ferries, etc. will be leaving, and how long each trip takes. Beautiful Gantt-chart UI; simple, scrollable timelines.
More and more interior imagery (inside St. Peter's, etc), but (biggest crowd pleasing moment so far), you can also zoom out as well as in, until you get to a whole Earth globe, from space. Spinnable, with physics. And those clouds? The gloating announcement "Those are in real time." The fawning and clapping continue, as even more zoom continues. View the earth in Eclipse, the Milky Way, etc. Jaw-dropping as a browser-based experience.
Larry Page's voice is softer and more labored, but he's on stage talking, to great applause.
On the future of Google Fiber, Larry says: "from an engineering standpoint, it's kind of a no-brainer." In a sense, most of the computers we have in the world, most of them are in people's shouses; msot fo them can't be used for anything useful." (I'll take that as creative license.)
"We need these low latency connections that operate a computer speed, no matter what that is."
Encourages other companies to do more things "outside their comfort zone," with both Fiber and Gmail as an example. Cross-pollication. "Almost every time we've tried to something crazy, we've made progress."
Has some politic but unflattering things to say about Oracle, but hedges on the question of how Oracle's tightening control on Java affects Android.
Page made at least five references to untapped efficiencies in transportation; I keep expecting Elon Musk to drive up the auditorium's center aisle in a Tesla in Google Street View livery.
Healthcare: Why are people so cagey about medical history? Insurance, he surmises -- afraid they don't be covered. "We should change the rules around insurance, so they have to insure people," he says, drawing great applause. DNA Sequencing, we're all gonna have that, it'll cost a dollar ..." To a followup question, he says that he has nothing to announce on this front from Google, though. On the company's own health care initaitves? "We had Google Health, we didn't make that much proress on it ... [It's only] one percent of where we can be."
On women in the development community: Says this is a serious concern. He and Sergey, he says, want "to make sure out company doesn't end up all male." Encouraging young girls to be interested is the key.