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Google I/O 2017: highlights from the developer conference

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Google's keynote for its annual I/O developer conference has wrapped, and it's obvious that it does not want the Google Assistant to be left behind for the likes of Siri, Alexa, and Cortana. Here's everything you need to know to catch up on the latest from Mountain View, California.

  • May 22, 2017

    Vlad Savov

    How about an Android Pro?

    Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

    At Google I/O this past week, I got my first taste of the next version of Android and I enjoyed almost everything about it. Android has gotten to the stage where improvements come in only incremental steps, and Google is mostly making the right ones with its annual updates. But I have an underlying worry about where this is all going: as Android grows more proactive and assistive, I fear it might end up alienating its more technically inclined users.

    So here’s a radical thought: maybe there’s now room for more than one canonical variant of Android. I can instantly hear the chorus of disagreement, bellowing the word "fragmentation" with cautionary zeal, but Google is already working on a modified version with Android Go, its extra lean serving for lower-spec devices. What I have in mind is a similarly stripped-down option intended for pro users: an Android Pro.

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  • Adi Robertson

    May 19, 2017

    Adi Robertson

    Should Samsung Galaxy S8 owners buy a Gear VR or Google Daydream?

    Photo by Vjeran Pavic / The Verge

    This week, Google announced a major expansion of its Daydream virtual reality platform. Daydream, currently only available on niche Android phones, is rolling out to the Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus this summer. That means that millions of smartphone owners will soon have two huge tech companies trying to sell them VR headsets.

    Google is offering the $79 Daydream View, which you’ll need to launch Daydream apps on your phone. Samsung sells the $129 Gear VR, which lets you access Oculus Home, a platform created by Facebook-owned VR company Oculus. Both headsets work the same way: after you clip a phone into the headset, you can interact with VR experiences using a small handheld remote. But they look and feel very different, and each has a completely separate app ecosystem.

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  • Chaim Gartenberg

    May 19, 2017

    Chaim Gartenberg

    How does Google Assistant stack up against Siri on an iPhone?

    Some of the biggest news to come out of Google I/O this week was that Google Assistant is coming to iOS, looking to take a shot at Siri, Apple’s own entrenched AI assistant. While Assistant has been available on Android for a while now, how does the AI assistant stack up against Siri when its forced to go head-to-head on Apple’s far more limited playing field? We put the two head-to-head.

    One of the most important parts of any AI assistant is how easy it is to access. One of the biggest selling points of Amazon’s Echo hardware is the always-listening feature that lets Alexa always be on hand to respond to any queries or commands. On Android, Assistant has deep, OS-level hooks that make it more more accessible and functional. But on iOS, things are a little tougher.

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  • Adi Robertson

    May 19, 2017

    Adi Robertson

    Google wants AI to manage my relationships, and that might be a good thing

    Photo by Vjeran Pavic / The Verge

    When Google said that not sharing photographs of your friends made you “kind of a terrible person” at this year’s I/O keynote, I bristled. The idea that its new Google Photos app would automatically suggest I share pictures with specific people sounded dystopian, especially because so much of the keynote seemed geared toward getting Google’s AI systems to help maintain relationships. Want to answer an email without even thinking about it? Inbox’s suggested responses are rolling out all over Gmail. Has a special moment with somebody slipped your mind? Google might organize photos from it into a book and suggest you have it printed.

    Google is far from the first company to do this; Facebook suggests pictures to share and reminds you of friends’ birthdays all the time, for example. It’s easy to describe these features as creepy false intimacy, or say that they’re making us socially lazy, relieving us of the burden of paying attention to people. But the more I’ve thought about it, the more I’ve decided that I’m all right with an AI helping manage my connections with other people — because otherwise, a lot of those connections wouldn’t exist at all.

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  • Paul Miller

    May 18, 2017

    Paul Miller

    You'll soon be able to send money with Google Assistant

    Google's approach to money is many-pronged. There's Google Wallet, Android Pay, the open Payment Request API it's spearheading, and now the brand new "Google Payment API," to name just a few of its approaches.

    This latest system will allow you to buy things — both inside apps and on websites — using your Google account. Most people have a credit card stored with Google for some reason or another, like for Google Play Store purchases, or a YouTube Red subscription. The new API will allow third party developers to charge you through your Google account, with Google handling the security and processing.

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  • Paul Miller

    May 18, 2017

    Paul Miller

    Google's Seurat technology turned a film-quality Rogue One scene into mobile VR

    Google has a new tool called Seurat that's designed to take high-end, film-quality 3D scenes and turn them into something that can run on mobile hardware. To demonstrate the technology, Google partnered with IMXLAB at Lucasfilm to take a high-fidelity digital set from Rogue One, which originally took hours per frame to render, and compressed the polygons and textures into something that could run in realtime on its prototype WorldSense headset.

    We got to check out a demo, and it did indeed look great. The scene — a dark and foreboding Imperial Hangar — has realtime reflections and lighting effects, along with a looming, animated K-2. It's not exactly cinema quality, but it's better than what you'd normally see running on mobile hardware — although we aren't actually certain how much power is inside the prototype WorldSense headset to begin with.

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  • Dieter Bohn

    May 18, 2017

    Dieter Bohn

    The Android app beta on Chrome OS will last at least through the summer

    Photo by Vjeran Pavic / The Verge

    The Chromebook Pro was meant to be a grand coming-out party for Android apps running on Chrome OS. The Samsung device would show Google’s ability to not just dominate the education space with web apps, but remove the “native app” issue for anybody that was holding out. But the feature has been stuck in a buggy beta for months and the device itself was delayed. Not great.

    We fully expected an update this year at Google I/O, and now we have one. Although Google chose not to say anything up on a big stage, there is good news, bad news, and potentially very exciting news to share. "I don't want to overpromise,” says Kan Liu, senior director of product management for Chrome OS. But he says soon Google will be ready to kick off the splashy product launch we were supposed to have earlier this year.

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  • James Vincent

    May 18, 2017

    James Vincent

    Google’s latest platform play is artificial intelligence, and it’s already winning

    Google CEO Sundar Pichai Opens I/O Developer Conference
    Google CEO Sundar Pichai shows off the company’s new AI computer chip at I/O this year.
    Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

    Google has always used its annual I/O conference to connect to developers in its sprawling empire. It announces new tools and initiatives, sprinkles in a little hype, and then tells those watching: choose us, and together we’ll go far. But while in previous years this message has been directed at coders working with Android and Chrome — the world’s biggest mobile OS and web browser respectively — yesterday, CEO Sundar Pichai made it clear that the next platform the company wants to dominate could be even bigger: artificial intelligence.

    For Google, this doesn’t just mean using AI to improve its own products. (Although it’s certainly doing that). The company wants individuals and small companies around the world to also get on board. It wants to wield influence in the wider AI ecosystem, and to do so has put together an impressive stack of machine learning tools — from software to servers — that mean you can build an AI product from the ground up without ever leaving the Google playpen.

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  • Adi Robertson

    May 18, 2017

    Adi Robertson

    Google isn’t building the ultimate VR headset. It’s setting the foundation for one

    Google Daydream Standalone VR Headset

    When word spread in 2016 that Google would move into serious virtual reality, not just disposable cardboard viewers, my colleague Dieter Bohn immediately put a couple of pieces together. One was the need for headsets that could track motion without dedicated “VR rooms” full of cameras or markers. The other was Project Tango, a Google experiment that used an array of cameras to map physical space. Google only announced the more modest Daydream mobile headset that year, but a Tango-powered device seemed inevitable. At I/O 2017, it finally arrived, in the form of a standalone headset that’s supposed to ship later this year.

    Google head of VR Clay Bavor describes the new headset as one point on a spectrum called “immersive computing,” an emerging technological paradigm that “enables our computers to work more like we do.” His team’s been working on this project for two and a half years, and Google is partnering with Qualcomm, HTC, and Lenovo to release a reference design and two commercial products based on it. If this works, Google’s years-long experiments with augmented and virtual reality will have converged into the ideal self-contained VR headset. But the standalone device feels more like a new beginning than a culmination — and it may be healthier for VR if we treat it that way.

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  • Adi Robertson

    May 18, 2017

    Adi Robertson

    YouTube VR will have shared rooms and voice chat instead of comment sections

    YouTube VR shared room

    The virtual reality version of YouTube is adding shared rooms that will let people view 360-degree videos together, part of a larger update to Google’s Daydream VR platform. The new feature, coming later this year, offers what YouTube VR product lead Erin Teague calls a “co-watching experience.” That means that small groups of people can enter a viewing session, talking to each other via voice chat.

    Teague describes community as “one of the core pillars that makes YouTube YouTube.” People will have control over what they’re viewing, but they’ll be able to see what other people are watching and choose to sync up the same video. People will appear as customizable (but generally human-looking) avatars, and they’ll speak out loud in real time instead of leaving comments or chat messages. “How do you take comments and apply them to VR?” Teague asks. The answer? “Voice will be the way that people express themselves in VR.”

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  • Adi Robertson

    May 18, 2017

    Adi Robertson

    Google Daydream is getting a big software update and its own VR web browser

    Google Daydream Euphrates Update

    Google’s Daydream VR platform is getting its first major software revamp later this year, nudging the interface toward being a more full-featured operating system. The update, codenamed Daydream Euphrates, will roll out to all phones with Daydream support. As part of a larger move to support self-contained headsets that aren’t powered by phones, it will add a 2D panel that pops up on top of virtual environments, giving all users better access to normal Android functions in VR.

    “The whole idea behind this is, we don't want to take you out of the VR experience if you need to check notifications or change a setting or pause or do whatever,” says Mike Jazayeri, the Daydream director of product management.

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  • Adi Robertson

    May 18, 2017

    Adi Robertson

    Google’s new VR headset is still a prototype — but it really works

    Google Daydream Standalone VR Headset

    Google’s standalone VR headset, announced yesterday at I/O, was both obvious and unexpected. People have been talking about a self-contained Google headset for over a year, and speculating (quite confidently) that the company would eventually use Tango augmented reality tracking in lieu of outside cameras. But Google head of VR Clay Bavor didn’t just announce the existence of new hardware — he promised a reference design and two commercial versions, made by HTC and Lenovo, by the end of the year.

    That’s an aggressive timeline, suggesting that Google’s already got something in pretty good shape. Despite this, Bavor didn’t show much on stage besides a line drawing of the planned hardware. After the keynote, though, I was part of a small group that got to check out an early prototype — and while it’s too early to say whether Google can pull off a fully self-contained VR headset, the core technology really does work.

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  • Jacob Kastrenakes

    May 18, 2017

    Jacob Kastrenakes

    Google’s best new features are in apps, not Android

    Yesterday was the day Google was expected to announce the big new features coming to Android this year. It had already announced some basics back in March, but the I/O conference is usually when we hear about the real highlights — the stuff consumers are actually going to look forward to. But the presentation came and went, and the most exciting thing Android got was app notification badges. Seriously.

    Barring any secrets Google is hanging onto, there’s no denying that this is one of the outwardly duller Android releases in recent memory. But the fact that Android O is missing flashy features is in many ways a great thing for users of Google’s products: Google does have a ton of new features on the way — they’re just built into discrete apps instead of the operating system.

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  • Natt Garun

    May 18, 2017

    Natt Garun

    Why Google Assistant and Search are two different iPhone apps

    Photo by Vjeran Pavic / The Verge

    Now that Google Assistant has officially arrived to the iPhone (at least, for US-based users) a lot of people may be wondering why Google pushed the AI as a separate app from the main one. Here’s an overview of the differences between the two.

    While it’s not officially called “Google Search” (and rather, just its plain ol’ namesake), many people refer to it as such because that’s essentially what the app is designed for. iOS users can download the app to add a nice little search widget on their home screen, using it to quickly look up things as you would on the website.

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  • Natt Garun

    May 18, 2017

    Natt Garun

    Watch the Google I/O 2017 keynote in 10 minutes

    Google kicked off its three-day developer conference with a two-hour keynote. There were a lot of news and updates, notably to things like the Google Assistant, Google Home, and Google Photos, but if you don’t have 120 minutes to spend watching the entire thing, we’ve recapped the keynote for you in a snackable 10-minute supercut. Then, if you want to dive into more details on each of these news items, see our storystream for everything you may have missed.

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  • May 17, 2017

    Vlad Savov

    Android O is shaping up to be exactly what Android needs

    Today’s Google I/O presentation was as wide-ranging as the company’s various ventures into future technology, though the biggest cheers of excitement were inevitably reserved for Android. I just got my first taste of Google’s next iteration, codenamed Android O, and it looks like it’s targeting exactly the areas where Google’s mobile OS needed improvement.

    Battery life, a thing that matters to all users at all times, is getting a nice helping hand from a couple of changes that limit resource consumption by apps running in the background. When a background app wants a location update, for instance, Android O will feed it the user’s last known location instead of activating the GPS or other hardware to collect a fresh location. Then, when the app is in the foreground, it regains its privilege of being able to poll for current location info. If you’re thinking that’s how it always should have been, I totally agree.

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  • Ashley Carman

    May 17, 2017

    Ashley Carman

    Google Photos for iOS gets Mother's Day movie feature, three days after Mother's Day

    Google hosted its I/O developer’s conference today during which it announced additional features for its Photos app, virtual assistant, and Android O. A lot of these things were cool, but what was most befuddling throughout the event was the company’s continued focus on Mother’s Day. Does Google know when Mother’s Day is? Today, the company rolled out an update to its iOS Photos app that specifically highlights a Mother’s Day movie-making feature. See here:

    As a reminder, Mother’s Day was this past Sunday, May 14th. To be fair to Google, this movie-making feature debuted before the holiday, but at the time, videos could only be compiled from the desktop app and then subsequently edited through the app. Now they can be made on the app. Still, this is hyper-specific UI for a holiday that comes around once a year.

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  • Dieter Bohn

    May 17, 2017

    Dieter Bohn

    Saying ‘OK Google’ is awful, but Google may be open to changing it

    Photo by James Bareham / The Verge

    Here’s a 1 percenter problem: I have both an Amazon Echo and a Google Home in our apartment, and so I could theoretically use whichever one is better. In a lot of ways, I think the Google Home is better: it sounds nicer, it works with my television, and it knows a lot of personal information that I haven’t bothered to try to make available on Amazon’s Alexa.

    But I usually just go with Alexa, because “Alexa” is way easier to say than “OK Google.”

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  • Chris Welch

    May 17, 2017

    Chris Welch

    Google is finally replacing its bad emoji blobs in Android O

    Photo by Chris Welch / The Verge

    Personally, I’ve always found one of the worst aspects of using a Nexus or Pixel smartphone to be getting stuck with Google’s bad, default emoji. Emoji intended to represent people look more like thumbs. Or, in the words of The Verge’s Megan Farokhmanesh, they resemble “normal emoji that melted.” Or Dots candy or something. I feel a slight anxiety when l include what should be a fun, cheerful emoji in my texts to friends who have iPhones or Samsung phones. which display more regular emoji. What will it look like to them? Must I pull up some chart to see?

    Google finally got the message that these emoji suck. Okay, “suck” is a little harsh. I’m sure some of you like them. But they’ve always been a little too offbeat when other phone makers offer emoji that mostly look similar. Google tried to tone things down a little and restore normalcy with Android N, but it wasn’t enough. So this time the company decided to start over and make things right for Android O.

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  • Dieter Bohn

    May 17, 2017

    Dieter Bohn

    The new Android TV home screen has the right ideas, but it's probably not enough

    I just spent some time with a small, early demo of the new home screen experience for Android O on TV. Even though it’s not fully working yet — some of the apps don’t open, and the Google Assistant isn’t running on it — it has a nicer TV UI than the other television devices I use every day.

    Those TV devices: Apple TV and Chromecast. The latter, while convenient, has no on-screen UI at all, which is a problem if you’re trying to pick a show with somebody else. The Apple TV is, well, it’s a big, boring grid of apps, only a few of which actually surface any kind of deep content on the home screen (and only if you happen to put them in the top row).

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  • Ben Popper

    May 17, 2017

    Ben Popper

    Google for Jobs aims to make job searching less of a hassle

    A lot of people turn to search engines when they’re looking for work, so today the world’s biggest search engine announced Google for Jobs. The project aims to leverage Google’s advanced machine learning capabilities, sorting through millions of job listings to better match opportunities with candidates.

    Right now Google isn’t planning to start hosting its own job listings. It is collecting them from third parties like Facebook, LinkedIn, Glassdoor, Monster, and ZipRecruiter. It then filters jobs for criteria like the length of the commute, and tries to bundle together openings for similar jobs that might be listed under different names. A couple of big companies, including FedEx and Johnson & Johnson, have been piloting the program, and Google CEO Sundar Pichai says they saw an 18 percent increase in applications over their previous methods.

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  • Paul Miller

    May 17, 2017

    Paul Miller

    Android Instant Apps are now available to all developers

    After a year of incubation, Android Instant Apps are finally ready for the world. Originally announced at last year's Google I/O, Instant Apps are a way for developers to offer a lightweight version of their Android app without requiring a visit to the Play Store. You just click a link in your web browser and all of a sudden you're using a real Android app, with all the power that implies — other than a few safety restrictions. A few Instant Apps were made available in January as a trial run, and a few other companies have partnered with Google to build instant apps since then, but now at this year's Google I/O the necessary tools have been made available to all developers.

    To make an app Instant, developers need to make it modular and compatible with deep links, so users can click on a URL and end up in exactly the part of the app they're looking to use. The initial download also needs to be under a certain size, but users also have the option to download the whole app once they've gotten a taste.

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  • May 17, 2017

    Chris Welch, Sean O'Kane and 1 more

    The 10 biggest announcements from Google I/O 2017

    Google just concluded its I/O 2017 keynote, where executives led by CEO Sundar Pichai laid out the company’s future roadmap for Android, Google Assistant, Google Home, virtual reality, and much more.

    Skydiving Google Glass-wearers, giant phone giveaways, and major hardware announcements no longer rule Google’s biggest annual conference. Instead, the company has settled into a pattern of releasing information about what it’s doing (and what it wants to do) for developers at I/O, instead of trying to wow consumers or the press.

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  • Jacob Kastrenakes

    May 17, 2017

    Jacob Kastrenakes

    LG and GE add Google Assistant support to fridges, washers, ovens, and more

    Google Home

    Google said today that we’re going to start seeing appliances show up with support for the Google Assistant, and two companies are already launching integrations: LG and GE.

    Both companies are updating their existing lines of connected appliances so that they can be controlled through the Google Home and Assistant. Supported appliances including fridges, ovens, washers and dryers, an air purifier from LG, and an air conditioner and water heater from GE.

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  • Jacob Kastrenakes

    May 17, 2017

    Jacob Kastrenakes

    The 6 big updates coming to Google Home

    Google announced a few big updates for the Google Home today. None of them are game-changing on their own, but they all add up to a substantial update for the connected speaker. Details are pretty basic right now, and Google didn’t say when any of these features would arrive, but here’s the gist of what’s coming up for the Home.

    Google calls this feature “proactive assistance.” Essentially, Google Home will do its best to alert owners to things they need to know, like reminders, traffic alerts, or flight delays.

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