25 things we learned at Google I/O
GOOGLE’S ANNUAL bunfight took place this week and there’s a lot to say. So instead of our usual Google Updates this week, let’s take a look at the top 20 announcements from the event, including some you may well have missed.
- The Pixel 3a launched with almost all the features of the original Pixel 3 at just £400, Google has made a statement of intent that, not only is Pixel still a thing, but it still believes that it can take on the iPhone.
- Google rolls Nest in: The launch of the Nest Hub Max was the first device under the new Google Nest branding, bringing together Google Home, Chromecast and Nest under a single moniker.
- New features for Pixel users: These include a time-lapse mode, and more bizarrely, automatic selfie-taking when you pucker for the camera.
- Google Maps Goes AR: Walking directions in Google Maps can now be overlaid directly over what you can see, headset style, which will end those ‘yes, but which way is South’ questions.
- The next generation Google Assistant is super-fast: By shrinking down the voice models onto the device, the Pixel 4 (if that’s what it’s called) will debut a much faster, more responsive voice assistant. Watch the demo – it’s crazy fast.
- Google Assistant gets more personal: Personal References will help Google contextualise natural language quickly. So now, you won’t just get “call Mom” but you’ll be able to say “Hey Google – what’s the weather like at Mums?” or “Hey Google, is the traffic heavy on the way to Moms?”. You’ll also be able to use Assistant from Waze for the first time.
- Google AI is helping to prevent flood devastation in India: By better predicting patterns of weather, Google can now provide better early warnings for potential heavy weather, to help people prepare
- News Coverage is getting better: Soon you’ll be able to explore news reports about a search topic by giving you options within the main search page, clearly marked as news, not just web pages.
- Podcasts are finally getting the full treatment: Soon, podcasts will start to appear in search results – and there’s a web client coming for Google Podcasts. Still no news on that dispute with Auntie Beeb though.
- Google Lens gets hungry: Soon you’ll be able to find a recipe by scanning a picture of the dish.
- Google Lens (again) can speak your mind: If Google Lens sees text, it can now parse it and turn it into speech in over 100 languages.
- Plan your trip in secret: If you don’t want to record your planned movements, have no fear – Incognito Mode is being expanded from Google Chrome to Google Maps.
- Android is now a FIDO2 key: You can now use your Android device to be your authenticator for anything else – great for keeping that laptop unlocked when you’re nearby.
- Android Q launched in Beta: It’s available on twelve recent devices for your tinkering pleasure.
- Live Captioning comes to any video: Even if its one you’ve recorded yourself. Even if it’s a conversation, Google can now offer subtitles generated using its voice recognition tools
- Android gets a Dark Mode: Yes, Android Q will have a Dark Mode. Got a bigger cheer than any of the good work for charity or security stuff, that did.
- Updates are going to get easier: Project Mainline will see the responsibility for rolling out updates taken back from the carriers and manufacturers, so if there’s a security update waiting, you’ll get it, in the background. You’ll never even know.
- Android Auto is getting a facelift: It’s going to be even easier to use from this summer.
- Wear OS is rolling out yet another redesign: This time ‘Live Tiles’ will channel the spirit of Windows Mobile.
- Android TV is also getting a revamp: there are now +5000 apps for Android TV and 140 pay-tv partners. Soon there’ll be a decent interface too.
- All Chromebooks are now Linux ready: From now on, buy a Chromebook, run Linux. End of.
- Google is making it easier to see what data is being shared with advertisers: Thanks to new transparency tools
- Google is all in on accessibility: As well as Live Relay, which allows live subtitling for real-life, there’s also Project Euphonia aimed at helping Google understand impaired speech, and Project Diva, a dedicated team working on disability ccess.
- Works with Nest is gone: But Works with Google Assistant will live on. Just don’t mention IFTTT integration
- Updates are about to get faster: The in-app update API is out of beta. Soon you’ll be able to update apps without ever leaving them.
Of course, there’s even more than that (Kotlin for example), but that should keep you going for a bit. As ever, Google I/O has given everyone a lot to think about – and the arrival of hardware launches, previously held separately, gives us another reason to get excited each time May rolls around. Enjoy. μ