Monday, 16 May 2016 16:03

What’s coming at Google I/O: cloud, VR and a lot of Android

By: 

This week will bring a raft of software and hardware news from Google, ranging from more details on the new Android N mobile software and the first Tango 3-D motion sensing smartphone to more speculative possibilities such as a new virtual-reality headset and a rival for Amazon’s Echo voice assistant.


Some or all of that could come at the company’s signature public event, Google I/O, which opens Wednesday, May 18. This is the conference where the company now called Alphabet trots out new products and takes a deep dive into its priority technologies for the coming year and beyond. For this year’s 10th annual installment, the event has moved from San Francisco’s Moscone Center to the Shoreline Amphitheatre, nearly adjacent to the Googleplex mothership in Mountain View.


The long-sold-out conference is aimed squarely at developers, all the more so in the last couple of years when flashy consumer products were few and far between. Still, the technologies Google focuses on at I/O are a good signal of what’s coming next from one of the tech industry’s top leaders.


Here’s what you might see coming out of the three-day event, starting with the big reveals that customarily arrive at the 10 a.m. kickoff keynote:


Virtual reality


The juiciest rumor is that Google could come out with a VR headset that’s a big leap beyond its Cardboard smartphone holder. The company earlier this year formed a dedicated VR division, signaling its intent to compete more forcefully with the likes of Facebook, whose Oculus Rift has started shipping but faces manufacturing and market challenges.
Now, according to several reports, Google is readying a VR headset that doesn’t require a smartphone, game player, or attached computer. That would be a first, since all the other headsets rely upon those devices for computing power, hampering their consumer appeal.
Even if that VR headset doesn’t materialize, Google is expected to keep the pressure on in VR at the show. It’s widely reported to be likely to reveal new VR features for Android and perhaps show off a new Cardboard design.

 


Android

 

Not surprisingly, Android will loom large as a focus–specifically Android N, the latest version. In an unusual move, though, Google announced it in March, well ahead of the usual I/O splash it has made in the past for new Android versions. But Google may announce a new developer version of N, widely believed to stand for Nutella in the latest of a long series of confection-themed code names, or announce some new wrinkles to N’s features, which include easier updating, better notifications and support for touch-sensitive displays a la the iPhone 6.


Another tantalizing possibility is that Google could finally announce the long-rumored takeover of the Chrome operating system, which runs on its Chromebook laptops, by Android. But despite years of rumors that Google would unify its operating systems, fed most recently by a recent report that the Google Play Store is coming to Chromebooks, the company may choose to keep them separate for lack of an overriding reason to go to the considerable trouble of mashing them together.

 

Cloud and enterprise

 

Google promises a number of enterprise-related announcements, probably on the first day of the conference, when it will hold an enterprise roundtable for the press. A few sessions promise to provide more details on the Google Cloud Platform, which the company has started seriously pushing with the hiring last year of former VMware cofounder Diane Greene last November.


Central to Google’s cloud ambitions is machine learning, which it recently started providing as a cloud service. Google also will highlight progressive Web apps, which allow developers to build app-like Web experiences, in several presentations. Android for Work apps also may see some updates.
But another product that has been under the radar, Firebase, looks to be a possible surprise focus for Google’s enterprise and cloud efforts. The “back-end as a service” platform, acquired by Google in October 2014, includes a database and data synchronization tools to help mobile app and Web developers create apps faster. Vikrum Nijjar, a Google site reliance engineer who was Firebase’s first employee, said in a recent podcast that “lots of exciting new features” are underway and that “we have a lot to announce at I/O.”


Firebase could be important for Google’s cloud ambitions as a way to expand further beyond providing higher-margin platform services for enterprise application developers to complement lower-level infrastructure services. “We believe this is a more valuable layer of cloud-delivered services, namely custom applications, applications that are inherently stickier than server workloads,” Macquarie Research said in a recent note to clients.

 


Tango phone

 


Project Tango is intended essentially to provide smartphones and tablets with virtual eyes that use the camera and various sensors to provide depth perception, so they can provide a precise sense of where the device is in a room and map interiors in 3D to resolutions of just a few inches. It has obvious applicability to VR and gaming as well as augmented reality (AR), which allows for the overlay of digital objects on to the real world.
Google has shown tablet-based developer models for a couple of years, but in January, it announced a partnership with Lenovo to build an Android phone that would cost less than $500. It’s supposed to come out this summer, so while Google probably won’t usurp that planned event. But given its evident importance to several Google technologies and services, it could provide a peek or update its progress at I/O.


Nexus tablet

 


There’s widespread speculation that Google may trot out a new Nexus 7 seven-inch tablet. With tablet sales generally falling in favor of big smartphones, though, this likely won’t be the most exciting news.

 


Chirp

 


As Amazon’s Echo speaker and voice assistant has taken off, many people have wondered why Google hasn’t yet weighed in–especially since the Echo can be used for an increasing number of services such as ordering an Uber car that might otherwise be done via an Android smartphone or Google search.


Now comes news that Google is working on a device that would meld its search and “OK Google” Android voice technology into something that, well, echoes the Echo. It’s reported to be called Chirp, and while it appears that it’s too early in development for Google to be able to show off even a prototype, we can always be surprised.

 

Miscellanea

 


We might hear more about Google’s self-driving cars. Astro Teller, head of the skunkworks group Google X, has said that the company’s autonomous car technology is almost ready to graduate from X.

Google also might provide some news on Project Aura, a new name for the next version of the ill-fated Google Glass head-mounted display device. This time, it’s likely to be aimed not at consumers, but enterprises, in particular medical and manufacturing industries. It’s doubtful we’ll see the device itself, but Google might provide news on its progress.

 

Source:  http://siliconangle.com/blog/2016/05/16/whats-coming-at-google-io-cloud-vr-and-a-lot-of-android/

 

 

 

This week will bring a raft of software and hardware news from Google, ranging from more details on the new Android N mobile software and the first Tango 3-D motion sensing smartphone to more speculative possibilities such as a new virtual-reality headset and a rival for Amazon’s Echo voice assistant.
 
 
Some or all of that could come at the company’s signature public event, Google I/O, which opens Wednesday, May 18. This is the conference where the company now called Alphabet trots out new products and takes a deep dive into its priority technologies for the coming year and beyond. For this year’s 10th annual installment, the event has moved from San Francisco’s Moscone Center to the Shoreline Amphitheatre, nearly adjacent to the Googleplex mothership in Mountain View.
 
 
The long-sold-out conference is aimed squarely at developers, all the more so in the last couple of years when flashy consumer products were few and far between. Still, the technologies Google focuses on at I/O are a good signal of what’s coming next from one of the tech industry’s top leaders.
 
 
Here’s what you might see coming out of the three-day event, starting with the big reveals that customarily arrive at the 10 a.m. kickoff keynote:
 
 
Virtual reality
 
 
The juiciest rumor is that Google could come out with a VR headset that’s a big leap beyond its Cardboard smartphone holder. The company earlier this year formed a dedicated VR division, signaling its intent to compete more forcefully with the likes of Facebook, whose Oculus Rift has started shipping but faces manufacturing and market challenges.
Now, according to several reports, Google is readying a VR headset that doesn’t require a smartphone, game player, or attached computer. That would be a first, since all the other headsets rely upon those devices for computing power, hampering their consumer appeal.
Even if that VR headset doesn’t materialize, Google is expected to keep the pressure on in VR at the show. It’s widely reported to be likely to reveal new VR features for Android and perhaps show off a new Cardboard design.
 
 
Android
 
 
 
Not surprisingly, Android will loom large as a focus–specifically Android N, the latest version. In an unusual move, though, Google announced it in March, well ahead of the usual I/O splash it has made in the past for new Android versions. But Google may announce a new developer version of N, widely believed to stand for Nutella in the latest of a long series of confection-themed code names, or announce some new wrinkles to N’s features, which include easier updating, better notifications and support for touch-sensitive displays a la the iPhone 6.
 
 
Another tantalizing possibility is that Google could finally announce the long-rumored takeover of the Chrome operating system, which runs on its Chromebook laptops, by Android. But despite years of rumors that Google would unify its operating systems, fed most recently by a recent report that the Google Play Store is coming to Chromebooks, the company may choose to keep them separate for lack of an overriding reason to go to the considerable trouble of mashing them together.
 
 
 
Cloud and enterprise
 
 
 
Google promises a number of enterprise-related announcements, probably on the first day of the conference, when it will hold an enterprise roundtable for the press. A few sessions promise to provide more details on the Google Cloud Platform, which the company has started seriously pushing with the hiring last year of former VMware cofounder Diane Greene last November.
 
 
Central to Google’s cloud ambitions is machine learning, which it recently started providing as a cloud service. Google also will highlight progressive Web apps, which allow developers to build app-like Web experiences, in several presentations. Android for Work apps also may see some updates.
But another product that has been under the radar, Firebase, looks to be a possible surprise focus for Google’s enterprise and cloud efforts. The “back-end as a service” platform, acquired by Google in October 2014, includes a database and data synchronization tools to help mobile app and Web developers create apps faster. Vikrum Nijjar, a Google site reliance engineer who was Firebase’s first employee, said in a recent podcast that “lots of exciting new features” are underway and that “we have a lot to announce at I/O.”
 
 
Firebase could be important for Google’s cloud ambitions as a way to expand further beyond providing higher-margin platform services for enterprise application developers to complement lower-level infrastructure services. “We believe this is a more valuable layer of cloud-delivered services, namely custom applications, applications that are inherently stickier than server workloads,” Macquarie Research said in a recent note to clients.
 
 
Tango phone
 
 
 
 
Project Tango is intended essentially to provide smartphones and tablets with virtual eyes that use the camera and various sensors to provide depth perception, so they can provide a precise sense of where the device is in a room and map interiors in 3D to resolutions of just a few inches. It has obvious applicability to VR and gaming as well as augmented reality (AR), which allows for the overlay of digital objects on to the real world.
Google has shown tablet-based developer models for a couple of years, but in January, it announced a partnership with Lenovo to build an Android phone that would cost less than $500. It’s supposed to come out this summer, so while Google probably won’t usurp that planned event. But given its evident importance to several Google technologies and services, it could provide a peek or update its progress at I/O.
 
 
Nexus tablet
 
 
There’s widespread speculation that Google may trot out a new Nexus 7 seven-inch tablet. With tablet sales generally falling in favor of big smartphones, though, this likely won’t be the most exciting news.
 
 
Chirp
 
 
As Amazon’s Echo speaker and voice assistant has taken off, many people have wondered why Google hasn’t yet weighed in–especially since the Echo can be used for an increasing number of services such as ordering an Uber car that might otherwise be done via an Android smartphone or Google search.
 
 
Now comes news that Google is working on a device that would meld its search and “OK Google” Android voice technology into something that, well, echoes the Echo. It’s reported to be called Chirp, and while it appears that it’s too early in development for Google to be able to show off even a prototype, we can always be surprised.
 
 
 
Miscellanea
 
 
We might hear more about Google’s self-driving cars. Astro Teller, head of the skunkworks group Google X, has said that the company’s autonomous car technology is almost ready to graduate from X.
 
Google also might provide some news on Project Aura, a new name for the next version of the ill-fated Google Glass head-mounted display device. This time, it’s likely to be aimed not at consumers, but enterprises, in particular medical and manufacturing industries. It’s doubtful we’ll see the device itself, but Google might provide news on its progress.

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