This year’s I / O. The Google event dealt intensively with the topic “We’re building something cool” and the topic “Here’s something that you can use or buy tomorrow”. But there were also some interesting surprises from the semi-live event in and around the company’s Mountain View campus. Read on for all the interesting parts.
Android 12 gets a fresh new look and some quality of life features
We know Android 12 has been on the way for months, but today was our first real look at the next big change for the world’s most popular operating system. A new look and feel called Material You (Ja) focuses on users, apps, and things like time of day or weather to dynamically change UI colors and other aspects. Some security features such as new indicators for camera and microphone usage, and some Private Compute Core features that use AI processes on your phone to customize responses and notifications. There’s a beta for the adventurous today!
Wow, Android now powers 3 billion devices
Subhed says it all (but read more here). From 2 billion in 2017.
Smart Canvas brings together documents, productivity and video calls
Millions of people and companies use Google’s suite of productivity and collaboration tools, but the company felt it would be better if they weren’t so isolated. With Smart Canvas, you can now make a video call while working together on a shared document, bringing in information and content from your drive and elsewhere. Looks complicated, but it might be handy.
AI conversations get more fun with LaMDA
It’s a little too easy to outsmart AIs if you leave the script and ask something in a way that seems normal to you but is completely incomprehensible to the language model. Google’s LaMDA is a new natural language processing technique that makes conversations with AI models more resilient to unusual or unexpected queries and makes them more like a real person than a language interface for a search function. They demonstrated this by showing conversations with anthropomorphized versions of Pluto and a paper airplane. And yes, it was just as strange as it sounds.
Google built a futuristic 3D video call booth
One of the most surprising things about the keynote was Project Starline, a high-tech 3D video calling setup that uses Google’s previous research and Lytro DNA to show realistic 3D avatars of people on either side of the system. It’s still experimental but looks very promising.
Wear OS is getting a makeover and many health-oriented apps
Few people want to see a movie on their smartwatch, but many people enjoy using it to track their steps, meditation, and other health-related practices. Wear OS is getting a ton of Fitbit DNA with built-in health tracking stuff and lots of third-party apps like Calm and Flo.
Samsung and Google announce a unified smartwatch platform
These two mobile giants have been quick friends in the phone world for years, but when it comes to wearables, they have remained rivals. However, given Apple’s total dominance in the smartwatch sector, the two have put their differences aside and announced that they will be working on a “unified platform” so developers can create apps that work on both Tizen and Wear OS.
And they also work together on leaflets
Apparently, Google and Samsung realized that no one is going to buy foldable devices unless they do really cool things, and that working together is the best way to go there. Hence, the two companies will also work together to improve the interaction of folding screens with Android.
Android TV reaches 80 million devices and adds a phone remote control
The smart TV space is competitive, and after a couple of launches, Google really did it with Android TV. The company announced that it has hit 80 million active devices per month – Roku and Amazon (the latter two with around 50) million active monthly Accounts) all in the same league. The company also showed a powerful new phone-based remote app that (among other things) makes it easier to enter passwords than the D-pad on the clicker. Developers will be happy to hear that there’s a new Google TV emulator and Firebase Test Lab has Android TV support.
Your Android phone is now (also) your car key
Let’s say you have a really new Android device with a UWB chip. Google is working with BMW first, and other automakers will most likely soon come up with a new way to unlock the car when you get near it or to exchange basic commands without using a trailer or bluetooth. Why not bluetooth, you ask? Bluetooth is old. UWB is new.
Vertex gathers machine learning development tools in one place
Google and its sibling companies are both leaders in AI research and popular platforms for others to do their own AI work. But the machine learning development tools were a bit scattered – useful, but not connected. Vertex is a new development platform for enterprise AI that brings many of these tools together in one place and tightly integrates them with optional services and standards.
There is a new generation of Google’s custom AI chips
Google does a lot of machine learning tasks. How much. As a result, they are constantly working to develop better and more efficient computer hardware to handle the enormous processing load that these AI systems create. TPUv4 is the newest, twice as fast as the old ones, and will soon be packaged in 4,096-head pods. Why 4,096 and not even 4,000? The same reason why another number exists in arithmetic: powers of 2.
And they offer some new features for photos, including one that is terrible
Google Photos is a great service, and the company is trying to capitalize on the huge collection of shots that most users need to use patterns like “family selfies on the couch” and “traveling with my lucky hat” as fun ways to dive back to find the archives. Large! But they also take two photos taken a second apart and have an AI hallucinate what lies between them, resulting in a really strange looking form of movement that shoots deep into the eerie valley that hopefully they never emerge from becomes.
Forgot Password? Googlebot to the rescue
Google’s “AI Makes a Hair Appointment For You” service, Duplex, didn’t exactly set the world on fire, but the company has found a new way to use it. If you forget your password, Duplex will automatically enter your old password, select a new one and let you copy it before sending it to the site by interacting with the website’s normal reset interface. It will only work on Twitter and a handful of other sites through Chrome for now, but hey, if it happens to you a lot it might save you some trouble.
Enter the purchasing chart
The ancients among our readers may remember Froogle, Google’s unhappy shopping surface. Well it’s back … kind of. There are plans to include a lot of product information, from price to star rating, availability and other information, right into the Google interface when you are looking for something. This information is obtained from retail websites including asking if you have anything in your shopping cart there. How all of this benefits someone more than Google is hard to imagine, but of course they position it as a win all around. Especially for new partners Shopify. (I use DuckDuckGo.)
The cross-platform Flutter devkit is getting an update
Many developers have chosen the cross-platform UI toolkit Flutter from Google. The latest version, announced today, includes some security settings, performance improvements, and workflow updates. There is much more to come.
Firebase also gets an update
The popular Firebase developer platform has also received a number of new and updated features. Remote Config is getting a nice update that allows developers to customize the app experience for individual types of users, and App Check provides a basic level of security against external threats. Developers can chew a lot here.
The next version of Android Studio is Arctic Fox
The beta for the next version of Google’s Android Studio environment will be available soon and is called Arctic Fox. It includes a brand new user interface building toolkit called Jetpack Compose and a number of built-in accessibility features that developers can use to make their apps more accessible to people with disabilities. Connecting to devices for testing should be a lot easier now too. Oh, and there will be a version of Android Studio for Apple Silicon.