Google I/O Recap: The Biggest Announcements

By Phill Powell

When you’re the economic engine of the world’s biggest corporation – with estimated assets of $540 billion – people take notice when you make a big announcement.

Tech giant Google (now part of Alphabet, Inc.) dominated all industry news this week at its much-anticipated Google I/O 2016 conference at Shoreline Amphitheatre in Mountain View, California.

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Google has been home to a whirlwind of activity lately, in many areas. So industry observers were expecting Google to announce a full plate of new offerings, and the world’s most powerful tech company didn’t disappoint.

Here are the major Google I/O announcements that have generated the most interest in the tech world:

Daydream Believer
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Here’s a bold new idea: create a VR platform expressly for mobile users. Google’s Daydream builds on the existing VR experience offered by Google Cardboard.

Like Android for VR before it, Daydream supports an ecosystem of VR content through its Android N. That custom material includes special versions of Google apps such as YouTube, Google Photos, Street View, Play Movies and the Google Play Store. And major outfits (like HBO, Netflix, Electronic Arts and Netflix) are hard at work, developing VR content for use on Daydream.

New phones equipped with special sensors and screens will be required in order to get the full Daydream experience, and eager consumers will have to wait until fall, when we see the first Daydream models from Samsung, LG, HTC and other manufacturers.

Planning a New Google VR Headset
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Some observers expected Google to announce its next VR headgear, a successor to its successful Google Cardboard headset.

The reference design that was displayed to the gathered faithful showed a VR headset that is smartphone-powered and slightly resembles an Oculus Rift.

Although it had no headset to display at Google I/O, company reps were quick to point out that the new headset design is being provided to various manufacturers, in hopes that they will produce such a headset.

A Next-Gen Google Assistant
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Voice-based assistants are like children; it’s amazing how quickly they grow up. For Google Assistant, its new version unveiled at Google I/O, the changes are striking.

Before, Google Assistant was all about typing searches. Now it’s about talking through those searches with you, and the program has become better at understanding nuance and figuring out the context of questions.

There’s even a coaching feature called “suggestion chips,” through which Google Assistant tries to look over your shoulder at your friends’ chat comments and give you ideas for cool replies you can answer. Nice!

Doubling Down on Messaging Apps
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At Google I/O, reps presented a pair of cool new messaging apps. One of them is named Allo, a mobile-only app that you can link to your Google account. The newly revamped Google Assistant is present in Allo.

One of the prime advantages of Allo is its privacy protection. Its messages are fully encrypted. But if you’d prefer Allo’s “incognito” mode, it will encrypt messages end-to-end for you.

A second messaging app, called DUO, is all about video chatting and will try to best rival FaceTime. One of DUO’s primary features is its simplicity. Open the app and you see a selfie-cam view of yourself, which anyone you call will see before answering the call.

Speaker of the House
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Tunes are essential to modern life, and so is communicating from room to room. Amazon’s Echo home assistant understood this, but Google Home may understand it even better.

Google Home is a small, two-part device that’s part speaker, part microphone, and fully integrated. It can be used with more than one device in various rooms, which can help with using it for more specific requests that are targeted to one family member’s room.

Eventually, Google Home will be able to control a home entertainment system and even make changes to room temperature or lighting.

Android? Where?!!!
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No, no…Android Wear, as in Google’s challenge to the Apple Watch. Android Wear 2.0 was shown to the Google I/O crowds this week.

Google says this version will create a more autonomous experience for the user, which means the watch can be used more independently of smartphones or other devices.

For eye candy, Google displayed an extra-small QWERTY keyboard that Android Wear users can actually wear on their wrist!

Apps That Don’t Have to Be Downloaded!
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Now here’s a really clever idea. Through Android Instant Apps, you’ll be able to run parts of apps that you haven’t even downloaded first.

The program only latches onto those app elements it needs and concentrates on delivering those. What a step forward in app development!

The program will make its official debut late in 2016 and Google claims that customizing the apps for this purpose won’t take long – possibly less than a single day.

STAY TUNED FOR MORE FROM GOOGLE I/O!

Google is an exciting company and Google I/O 2016 was an amazing event – and DMA was there! Stay tuned for more reports and special news in weeks to come.

And we hope to see you at next year’s conference!