Google kicked off I/O talking about Assistant, their new personal assistant that is based off of Google Now and is built to help you with common things you may be doing. Two way dialog with this new assistant is one of it’s shining features alongside more of a personality when compared to Now. A messaging-type interface is present to help you get questions answered and tasks completed and is built right inside Allo, the company’s new messaging app (more about that in a bit).
You could call Assistant Google’s take on Siri or what Siri should’ve/could’ve been, however both of those statements wouldn’t be very accurate. This new technology is its own thing and does it’s best to try to be independent, however it does share some similarities with both Apple’s personal assistant alongside Microsoft’s Cortana and even Viv, the creator’s of Siri’s new project.
Cars, phones, and more will all have access to Assistant alongside Google’s new Home hardware (more about that below). Things like buying tickets and answering complex questions can all be done with Assistant which is nice to have access to no matter where you may be.
Google is now allowing third-party developers to build/update different apps that plug into Assistant to offer various services which can be helpful to users like, say, ordering a pizza or getting a cab.
To pair with Assistant, Google built a new wireless hub called Home. It shares so many characteristics with Amazon’s Alexa that Google actually gave credit to Amazon for developing such a technology. Customization is the name of the game when ordering one of these puppies as they are available in a variety of different finishes to perfectly match your home.
Setting timers, asking questions, and checking the weather can all be done through Home with its built-in microphone system as well as speaker on the bottom. However, that’s not all. Since Assistant is on-board, more complex operations like, “Play my ‘Jams’ Spotify playlist in the living room” can be performed. How is that possible, you ask? Well, by using the company’s Chromecast Audio system they introduced last year, you can choose to play any music track or playlist on any speaker you have set up with Chromecast no matter where it is in your home. Oh, and you can tell Home to play that episode of your favorite show you missed right on your TV through Chromecast too via, say, Play Movies. Cool, right?
LEDs on the top of Home tell you when “Okay, Google” has been spoken and is working to deliver you an answer.
Pricing and availability hasn’t been unveiled just yet, however later this year is the time frame for when you can expect Home to go on sale. Developers have been prompted to start integrating their apps with the new wireless hub before the official release of the product so plenty of functionality can be performed by the user from day one.
Wanna stay up-to-date on everything Home? Head over to Home.Google.com and register for updates.
Allo and Duo
Also with Assistant built-in is Google’s new messaging app Allo. This app has been dubbed a “smart messaging app” by the company and brings the best of Google right to your texts.
Allo is different then, say, Hangouts. Users can both communicate via texts, however since you have access to Google’s Assistant, you can get information from the web on the fly. Say your planning to go out later with your friend to that new Italian place on Market St: Google will automatically give you informaiton about that eatery and will let you make a reservation or give them a call right from the app. If you don’t know where to go, however, you can always just type, “@Google” then your search query. Google will return results about whatever kind of restaurant you searched for and let you send the data to your friend with whom you’re messaging. You can also ask Google questions using this method and have actual conversations with the search engine, all without ever leaving Allo. A separate conversation with Google is also possible.
Allo allows users to express themselves much better as well. When sending a picture, using Ink will allow you to add a little doodle to one of your photos without ever ruining the original. When you wanna get your point across a bit better (like if you’re really excited or wanna whisper something), you can use the new Whisper-Shout feature. After typing your message, by touching and holding on the send button, you can increase or decrease the actual size of your message, meaning how big you want the text to be. Sliding up with make your text bigger, while sliding down will make your text smaller. It’s that simple.
Smart replies are also present in Allo which allow you to quickly reply to a message via curated replies. What’s great about these smart replies is the fact that replies are created for photos as well. If your friend sends a pic of their cute dog, you’ll get a reply saying, “How cute!” or something similar.
While having a conversation with Google, you can also ask it to play a game with you. Simple mini games like a movie-style guess the emoji round are all accessible right from the chat thread. Just input your guesses or answers via text and you’re good to go.
If you’re planning a surprise party for your kid or friend who goes on your phone often, you can also use an Incognito chat thread with your fellow party planners so nothing gets spoiled. This works by automatically deleting texts sent after a period of time and when a thread is left. Security is also present amongst all threads, with strict encryption at both ends being active at all times.
While Google didn’t talk about AI bots at I/O, Assistant seems to be pretty similar to one, especially since you can have such complex conversations with it. This may be the missing link in the Google-bot story book.
Google also spoke about another app they call Duo which coincides with Allo. Duo is a video calling app similar to FaceTime but works cross-platform and is built for simple and quick video calls. Nothing fancy. Just video calls.
When opened, Duo will automatically switch on your front camera and display your contacts. By using your phone number, you can make and receive video calls from anyone who also has the app whether they are on iOS or Android. A special Knock Knock feature allows anyone who is receiving a call view what the person is currently doing so more spontaneous calls are possible.
Both Allo and Duo will be made available this summer on both Android and iOS.
I think we were all expecting some big news about Android N today. However, that wasn’t the case. Google basically went over everything we already knew about Android N and then some. They did share some news, which can be viewed below, but if you want to know what they went over about N, check out the posts on MBEDDED linked below.
For starters, Google announced that they want you to submit your idea for the official name of Android N. They said that it’s extremely hard this year to decide on a name, so if you visit www.android.com/n, you can tell Google what you think the next version of Android should be called. This was actually discovered to be an idea that Google had of doing, as Opinion Rewards users were noticing a survey popping up asking what they think N should be called.
Second, Google said that the first beta-stage build of Android N is now available for download and installation on your device. Head to www.android.com/beta to get it.
And lastly, Google said that N will be available this summer.
Daydream is a new technology that aims to deliver high quality VR content to smartphone users all over the world. By focusing on low latency, high performance, and a beautiful VR system UI, Google will be able to deliver a fantastic VR experience as a part of Android N’s built-in VR functionality.
High specifications are needed in order to run Daydream content on your device, however manufacturers (according to Google) like Samsung, Alcatel, HTC, and more already have smartphones on the market that meet the requirements.
A controller will be available to work with Daydream content which includes a few buttons alongside a trackpad and orientation sensor to access certain functions of the VR experience. Playing games, viewing menus, and more can all be done with this controller.
Daydream VR is coming this fall, while Google has asked developers to start developing apps for the technology so there’s plenty to do on day one.
Android Wear 2.0
While there wasn’t much time spent talking about it, Google did announce Android Wear 2.0. This update brings many new features to the current lineup of smartwatches which run the OS.
For starters, customizable watch faces are now present which allow you to add data from any app right to the face of your watch, whether it’d be the weather or your flight time.
Second, smart replies for emails, texts, and more are accessible alongside the ability to hand write messages which then converts to text. Strangely enough, Google decided to add a very tiny keyboard to Android Wear to input text as well. This doesn’t really make sense, especially since watch faces tend not to be very big at all.
Third, by beginning a run or starting a walk, your Android Wear watch will automatically start a session which is then backed up to Google Fit or whatever fitness app you may use. You can also start playing your favorite music from whatever app you use right through the speaker built-in to your watch, all without your phone. That’s right. With LTE now becoming available in smartwatches nowadays, you’ll be able to leave your phone home and just take your watch with your. You’ll also be able to make phone calls and send texts without your phone as well.
Android Wear 2.0 is now available as a developer preview for both the Huawei Watch and LG Watch Urbane 2nd Edition from the Android Wear website.
Android Instant Apps
Google has finally formally announced their app streaming service they call “Android Instant Apps”. This allows anyone to run an app from, say, Google Chrome on your Android device via a web link and access certain features inside the app you have access to when you install the app.
Say you search for a backpack on Amazon: Google will allow you to load the official Amazon Android app right on your device without installing the app and view the backpack as if you had the app open. Certain parts of the software will be downloaded to your phone in order to run, however, but it’ll be automatically erased once the window is closed.
This kind of technology is still in a rough stage, so don’t expect Instant Apps to become accessible until maybe at the end of this year.
What do you think of the latest news out of I/O? Anything catch your eye, or is it all “same old, same old”? Let us know in the comments and we’ll try to respond!