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Thursday, May 28th 2015 marked the first day of Google’s annual developer conference, Google I/O, at the fabled Moscone Conference Center in San Francisco. Unconfirmed reports peg the attendance at 3,500 people, with most of the attendees being professional software developers.
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On to the keynotes
Google conference keynotes are anything but bland. Thursday's two-and-a-half-hour keynote began with an animated music video on a screen that covered three of the four walls in the enormous conference hall. During the keynote, speakers from Google made dozens of announcements, including the following:
The Android M Developer Preview would be available immediately. Android M includes six main areas of innovation:
- App permissions no longer appear for approval in bulk when an app is first installed. Instead, each permission appears in a popup dialog when an app first requires that permission.
- The web experience is improved with greater integration between an app that fires a web view and the web view itself.
- App to app links can be customized by the developer. In many scenarios, the dialog that asks the user to Open with which app? is no longer necessary
- Android Pay, using NFC, goes through the user’s existing debit and credit cards. Users do not have to open an app in order to make a payment. Android Pay involves agreements between Google, mobile phone carriers, and major vendors.
- Fingerprint support is standardized as a uniform element in the Android API. Before Android M, fingerprint detection was available from individual phone makers only. Fingerprint support is integrated with Android Pay to help ensure security for the Pay system.
- Android M includes a new feature called Doze. With Doze, a phone detects when it’s not being moved (and thus not in use) and cuts the phone’s power consumption during those periods. Power consumption for idle apps is also improved. Plans to support USB Type C are in the works. With USB Type C, you can insert the cable without checking which side is up. Also, USB Type C is bidirectional, so a phone can either be charged or act as an emergency charger.
Android M also includes easy sharing with people on a frequently shared list, simplified volume controls, and improved copying and pasting of text. The initial developer preview is available today.
Google conference keynotes are anything but bland.
A new release of Android Wear will roll out in the next few weeks. Android Wear features always-on apps. The wearer can see important information (shopping lists, directions, and so on) without flicking a wrist or touching the watch face. To conserve battery, apps in idle mode appear slightly dimmed and in black-and-white.
With the new Android Wear release, the wearer can use wrist gestures to scroll between messages. And here’s a cute feature: if the user draws an emoticon on the screen, the watch recognizes the emoticon, and adds the emoticon to whatever message is currently being composed for sending.
Project Brillo, for home-based devices, is a minimal operating system derived from Android. Brillo has broad support among processors and is easy to secure. Along with Brillo comes a new set of communication protocols named Weave. Weave works in conjunction with any Android device, with Brillo, and with other operating systems. The Brillo developer preview is expected in Q3 this year, and the Weave developer preview is expected in Q4.
Machine Learning and Google Photos
Machine learning using deep neural nets is the technology driving Google Photos. Starting immediately, with Google Photos, everyone has unlimited space to store photos (up to 16 Megapixel) and videos (up to 1080p) in the cloud. Google Photos is available for Android, iOS, and on the web.
Google Photos can sort your images by date, by person, and by category. The categories include people, places, and things. You see photos grouped day by day, but you can pinch the screen to zoom out for grouping month by month or even year by year.
Many users have serious connectivity constraints so Google is working to make more information available offline. Later this year, users will be able to view a YouTube video offline for up to 48 hours. Google is also working with Maps to make the information available with no network connectivity. In the keynote, a Google representative demonstrated navigation through Mexico City, and even searching for information about places in Mexico City, while the device was in airplane mode.
For Android developers, version 1.3 of the Android Studio integrated development environment is being released immediately. This new release involved full support for native C/C++ development and improved build speed.
The Play Store
Starting immediately, developers can have their own pages on the Google Play Store. Developers can experiment with different versions of their app’s listings and get stats on the responses from various versions. And with the soon-to-be-released Cloud Text Lab, developers will be able to upload an app and get immediate test results for runs of the app on several devices. The Play Store includes more ways to flag family-friendly content, with apps filters for age, familiar characters and the presence or absence of in-app advertising.
Nanodegree, Cardboard and Jump
In conjunction with Udacity, Google is launching a Nanodegree course. This six-month course costs only $200 (USD) per month, and trains participants in Android development.
An improved Cardboard viewer accepts phones of any size. Starting today, the new software development kit for Cardboard supports both Android and iOS. With a new program named Expeditions, teachers from around the world can create online virtual reality experiences for their students.
A new initiative called Jump allows anyone to create 3D 360-degree virtual reality video. The Jump system uses an array consisting of 16 cameras configured in a full circle. Users can put their own cameras on the array or purchase a pre-built system from GoPro. A part of the Jump project named Assembler takes the feeds from 16 cameras and combines them into a seamless virtual reality experience. Anyone can view the videos with Cardboard and a smartphone. This summer, YouTube will make the videos available through a YouTube VR channel.
As was mentioned before, Google I/O keynotes never disappoint, and this year's conference is no exception.
What were you expecting to hear about from the Google I/O keynote? Let us know!