Google unveiled its next-generation Android M operating system at Google I/O, but that was only one of many announcements from the company. Here's all of the news from Google's big event.
Jun 6, 2015
The director of the best Fast & Furious movies recently made another action blockbuster — but you won't find it in theaters or on VOD. It's called Help! and it's only available on Android for now, but the bigger deal is that it's a live-action Spotlight Story. That's Google's format for 360-degree video, which lets you point your phone in any direction as a story unfolds in real time around you. The first Spotlight Story, Windy Day, won accolades for being innovative and the next one, Duet, was created with famed animator Glen Keane. But Lin's take on the format is much more ambitious and much more fun to watch than what came before.Read Article >
Help! is ambitious because it's a live-action video, which means that the characters and special effects have to play out in real time and without many of the tools that usually hang from a filmmaker's belt: edits, camera moves, cuts, and framing specific shots for the camera were all off the table. It also required that Google's skunkworks R&D division ATAP come up with an entirely new camera rig.
May 29, 2015
I/O is a show about the future of Google, and one of the best places to see what that could look like is from the company's Advanced Technology and Projects group (ATAP). It's the skull-and-bones, emblem-toting team behind modular smartphone Project Ara, and up until January was in charge of all-seeing 3D tablet experiment Project Tango. Unlike the rest of Google, ATAP is defined by its deliberate want to create and complete projects in short bursts, or else abandon them. It means that there's a constant flow of new products and ideas that could either be the next big thing or end up too complex to make it out the door.Read Article >
May 29, 2015
There's one very simple rule in virtual reality development: don't make people sick. But when it comes to making suggestions instead of prohibitions, we're still formulating the guidelines for everything — sound, motion, interaction, even text. It's a problem that Google Cardboard designers Jon Wiley and Alex Faaborg are all too conscious of. Since unveiling the cheap Cardboard headset a year ago, Google estimates that over a million of them have made it into the hands of VR enthusiasts. At this year's I/O, Google is betting that it can turn a side project into a real platform for developers... and it's making a little tool that will show them (or anyone else) how to do it right.Read Article >
"Over the last several months, we've been, as designers, really digging into what makes a beautiful, amazing design experience. We hit on a few things that are just basic guiding principles," says Wiley. "But one of the things that we figured out early on was that really the best way to learn or see or experience anything in VR, you really can't talk about it or just draw it. You actually have to be there." Thus was born Cardboard Design Lab, a simple VR app about building, well, simple VR apps. Plug your phone into a Cardboard-style headset, open the lab — created in partnership with design studio UsTwo — and you'll get a short guided tour through the best practices for virtual environments.
May 29, 2015
The incredibly cool touch-sensitive fabric that Google's ATAP unit is demonstrating here at I/O 2015 won't be limited to Mountain View's labs. Levi's just announced that it's partnering with Google to turn Project Jacquard into proper fashion. "We’ve got the genius pirates at ATAP who can help us develop and deliver this platform," said Paul Dillinger of Levi Strauss, pointing to Levi's own expertise in fabric development and supply chain as the other ingredients that can put Google's technology inside a future pair of jeans. Dilliginer referred to Jacquard as a "dazzling opportunity" for a partnership between the two companies.Read Article >
And Dillinger said it's all about lessening distraction as we try to balance real-world interactions with our digital lives. "If there’s a chance to enable the clothes that we already love to help us facilitiate access to the best and most necessary of this digital world while maintaining eye contact with the person we're eating dinner with, this is a real value. If we can deliver that value in the form of clothes that you as friends and fans of this brand already love, that is a project worth doing." Levi's and Google aren't yet saying when you'll be able to buy a touch-sensitive pair of 501s, but the possibilities — and the fact that a true pact exists — is pretty exciting.
May 29, 2015
Google debuted Android Pay during yesterday's opening keynote at its I/O developer conference. But the most interesting payments news came at a late afternoon session, where executives from Google's commerce division showed off a prototype of a hands-free feature that will soon be beta testing in San Francisco. Customers can walk into a store, say, "I would like to pay with Google" and walk out without having touched their wallet or phone.Read Article >
One of the heads approaches me, and its black mouth moves as it speaks. I reach out to touch it.Read Article >
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Bavor is Google’s VP of product management for "Cardboard and our efforts in VR," he says, as we sit down in Google’s offices to discuss just how ambitious those efforts have become. Until a couple weeks ago, Cardboard was regarded as an experiment in virtual reality for Android, a 20-percent time project crafted by a small group of engineers because it was, for lack of a better word, neat.
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The year-over-year cycle of innovation followed by refinement isn’t new to anyone familiar with tech, but increasingly it’s tough to say just what Google’s next refinements ought to be. There’s the usual checkboxes: improve battery life, clean up some settings, buff out the rough spots. After that, you expect a headline, a brand new service or feature — like, say, an improved mobile payment system. Small or large, we’ve come to expect these annual upgrades.
May 29, 2015Read Article >
Google I/O 2015 is Google's biggest event of the year. It's where we get to see the future of Android, the future of Google+, and the future of Google's wildest experiments. We went behind the scenes at Google for an exclusive look at the biggest stories: Android M, Google Photos, Google Cardboard, Project Tango, the experimental ATAP lab, and an in-depth interview with the man behind it all, Sundar Pichai.
May 29, 2015
Yesterday Google I/O poured announcements on us the way I pour syrup on a steaming stack of flapjacks: Android M will optimize the platform while adding a number of new services; Google Cardboard will make VR more accessible — even for iPhone owners; and Android Pay will try to do what Google Wallet couldn't, get people to pay for toilet paper and taxi rides with their smartphones. Plus, Google announced Now on Tap, a search system that our own Dieter Bohn describes as "fast, accurate, creepy, and great."Read Article >
Did I mention the best news? That the director of the greatest action film franchise premiered his new short? Because he did. Okay, maybe Google Photo was better news. So much happened, that it might just be easier to read this recap of the 12 most important announcements.
After loading Google's first developer preview of Android M onto a Nexus 6, we've just had our first peek at what's to come when the big update is ready for consumer release in Q3. For starters, the majority of the most important features that Google announced today are nowhere to be found. The very cool Now on Tap feature isn't yet active (hopefully that'll come in a later preview update), Android Pay's not yet ready, and obviously the Nexus 6 isn't going to do much in the way of scanning fingerprints. So what's left? Well, the first developer preview shows that Google has been working to refine and polish the work that began in Android 5.0 Lollipop.Read Article >
The first thing you'll notice is a slightly tweaked font on Android M's home screen. It's not a drastic departure from the Roboto of old, but it's a change you'll spot almost immediately. Unlock the phone and you'll be greeted by a very familiar homescreen; the only thing that's new here is a wallpaper. But tap on the app launcher and then you'll see the first significant shift. Google's app drawer now scrolls vertically rather than horizontally, with letters on the left side that keep you from getting lost in a sea of installed apps. Similarly, you can now search from within the app tray itself, another helpful addition for those who've downloaded a healthy selection of content from Google Play. The widgets picker shares this same vertical interface.
Near the end of the opening keynote at Google's I/O developer conference, the company announced something called "Jump." And while it may have sounded like Jump was just a camera rig the company built in conjunction with GoPro, it's much more than that. Jump is an entire ecosystem for creating virtual reality videos, and it sounds like the kind of thing that could help VR take off by making it much more accessible to both create and consume.Read Article >
As Clay Bavor, Google's vice president of product, detailed on stage Jump consists of three parts: the camera rig itself, software that automatically assembles and processes the footage, and a player. First, Google has developed blueprints for a 360-degree camera rig made with 16 cameras — enough to keep the quality of the content high without totally sacrificing portability, apparently.
Google's new Jump program is more than a ring of GoPro cameras. It's actually a whole system involving the cameras, Google's servers that assemble all the footage, and customizations to YouTube to enable true, stereoscopic VR. It's a process for stitching together video in a seamless way without making the directors or editors become computer science experts. There's a lot to Jump.Read Article >
But the most important part is the results: is the actual stereoscopic 3D video you can look at on Cardboard any good? In two words: yes, but.
We've just installed Google's preview of Android M on a Nexus 6, and naturally the first thing we did was head into settings and start hammering the "Android version" section. You'll see a colorful M graphic pop up, but if you try to reach the second easter egg section, all you'll get is a shruggie. In Android 5.0 Lollipop, users were thrown into a Flappy Bird clone and had to safely navigate between colorful lollipops. Well, since we don't yet know what Android M's final name will be, this is Google's way of telling you that there's nothing here for now. See you in the fall.Read Article >
At its 2015 Google I/O keynote, Google focused mostly on optimizing Android — but that's actually a pretty big project. A lot of the updates involved reducing friction: there were updates to Android designed to make moving between apps and the web smoother, updates to Android Wear designed to make it easier to glean information from watch faces at a glance, and a new photo app that will organize all your pictures and back them up for free.Read Article >
There are also some new, potentially interesting features for the existing apps. Google Now will start to anticipate your needs wherever you are on your phone. If you’re in a region with poor connectivity, Chrome and Maps will be capable of more, including giving directions while offline. As for hardware, there’s a new Google Cardboard — and an educational field trip initiative — and a VR camera system that will be sold by GoPro, but the plans for which will be made available this summer for anyone to make their own.
I've just gotten a chance to play around with an early build of Now on Tap, Google's wild new feature that, in essence, does Google searches inside apps automatically. It works like this: when you're in an app — any app — you hold down the home button. Android then figures out what is on the screen and does a Google Now search against it. A Now search is slightly different from your usual Google search, because it brings back cards that are full of structured data and actions, not just a list of links.Read Article >
The build we were using was a little buggy still, but in the preplanned demos we tried, it worked really well. In a chat that mentioned Anna Kendrick and Pitch Perfect 2, cards for those very entities popped up from the bottom of the screen. In both cases, they had information from the web and tiny icons to open up the relevant page inside an app like Flixter or IMDB.
May 28, 2015
One year ago, Google introduced its first step into the fast-growing world of virtual reality — but Google Cardboard felt more like the whimsical side of Google having fun with a trend rather than embracing it head-on with a "serious" product. However, as the year went on, it became clear that Cardboard was no joke. Google already sells a host of different Cardboard kits from various manufacturers and is also offering an SDK to help developers build apps for Cardboard.Read Article >
Today, the company's giving Google I/O attendees a new version of its Cardboard hardware, with a few key changes. For starters, it's big — it can now support phones up to 6 inches. It's a logical place for Google to go, given the size of the flagship Nexus 6 smartphone. There's also a new button — instead of the old magnetic button, the new one is a piece of conductive foam that works as the primary input device when using Cardboard. And perhaps most importantly, it now works with the iPhone as well as Android. Yes, Cardboard is just a holder, and you could pop an iPhone into the first version (as well as some third-party ones), but a new SDK and Cardboard app means iOS is now fully supported.
GoPro may have announced a quadcopter and a purpose-built rig for filming VR yesterday, but the action camera giant apparently wasn't done. Now, GoPro announced that it has built a completely separate rig with Google. It's a 360-degree, 16-camera array, and it's the first one specially made for filming 3D VR content for Google's new "Jump" VR ecosystem.Read Article >
GoPro's new camera array slots right into that ecosystem, and will let people easily create VR content for everything from YouTube to Google Cardboard. Basically, GoPro and Google want VR filmmakers all the hassle of hacking together DIY rigs made of duct tape and 3D-printed parts.
May 28, 2015
Google has announced a new version of Cardboard, its virtual reality viewer. The latest Cardboard design will fit larger phones, up to 6 inches, and it's gotten rid of the magnet controller, replacing it with a cardboard button that will work with every phone. It also takes fewer steps to assemble. Just as importantly, Google has launched its Cardboard virtual reality app on iOS. The new app will let iPhone users explore city environments, use a virtual kaleidoscope, and view 3D objects from a museum collection. Until now, the official Cardboard app was available only on Android, where it has been downloaded over a million times. For developers that have created their own Cardboard-compatible apps, the software development kit also supports iOS.Read Article >
May 28, 2015
In keeping with Sundar Pichai's grand theme of services available to all, Google is today announcing offline search in its Maps application along with offline turn-by-turn voice navigation instructions. Aimed to help users in developing countries where access to data is either spotty, expensive, or both, the new features will let people use Google's services even when they don't have "super reliable connectivity." The new offline functionality is coming to Google Maps later this year, joining the YouTube Offline option (available in India, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Vietnam) that allows you to download and keep YouTube videos on your device for up to 48 hours. And just to round things off, Google's making big strides in optimizing data usage in its Chrome web browser as well, claiming it can now reduce data consumption by as much as 80 percent.Read Article >
May 28, 2015
Google is making a big play for your photos. It's releasing a revamped Google Photos today that offers unlimited storage of images and videos entirely for free. Resolution is limited to 16 megapixels for photos and 1080p for videos, but that's not much to complain about (if you want to store a higher resolution file, it can also tap into Google Drive storage). Photos is being made available on iOS, Android, and the web, and it includes a number of other helpful features that may make you want to pick it up.Read Article >
The other big feature present in Photos is around organization. Google will analyze your images and automatically sort them into groups. On stage, Google showed how it could sort out photos of skylines and beaches — it's a lot like what Flickr rolled out earlier this month. It'll also identify people, so that you can scroll through images of them over time. It can even track them as they age.
Google Now is getting even smarter. At the company's I/O 2015 keynote moments ago, Google unveiled a new feature that lets Android's personal assistant examine whatever is happening on your screen and automatically take relevant actions. Basically, Google Now is being infused into every piece of the Android operating system. "You’re deluged with a lot of information on your phones," said Google SVP Sundar Pichai. The evolution of Google Now is aiming to fix that. "We have the biggest investment in machine learning over the last few years, and we believe we have the best capabilities in the world," Pichai said. He then handed things off to Aparna Chennapragada, Google Now's product director.Read Article >
"We want to proactively bring you answers," Chennapragada said. Google Now "understands" over 100 million places. And it's not just simple business listings. "Not just geometry, but when are they busy, when are they open, and what are you likely to need when you’re there?," asked Chennapragada. She then moved on to demonstrate Now's new intelligent awareness. While playing a Skrillex song, she simply asked Now "What's his real name?" and it provided the answer.
May 28, 2015
Google announced today at Google I/O that 4,000 apps have been developed for Android Wear in the year since its debut. With the rest of that growing library, the platform now features new, more powerful apps — Uber, Foursquare, and Citymapper, among others.Read Article >
Uber for Android Wear is probably the most impressive of those demonstrated onstage today. The app update allows to user to simply say "OK, Google, call me a car" and an Uber driver will be summoned to their location. Apps like Foursquare will provide glanceable updates about restaurant entrees, and Shazam will detect songs using the smartwatch's internal microphone. Spotify has also joined, offering the ability to browse and stream music.