Conferences from big vendors are typically about either new product announcements or feature enhancements, and while there is plenty of talk about things like Google Allo and Google Duo, perhaps the most talked about change at Google I/O 2016 is the venue.
A conference enjoyed from a Mountain View
This year's coverage of Google's annual developer conference comes from the Shoreline Amphitheater in Mountain View, California. The Mountain View venue is a departure from previous years, when the conference was held in downtown San Francisco's Moscone Center. For a recurring attendee, the change of venue means many things:
- There are more attendees this year. There are seven thousand people at this year's conference as opposed to previous years that was caps of between 3500 to 5000 people.
- There is an outdoor setting. This year's keynote takes place at an outdoor amphitheater. The mood is less conference-like and instead, reminiscent of an outdoor festival. On the downside, I was boiling in the sun during most of the keynote.
- Travel to and from the Mountain View site is less convenient than it would be at a centrally located, downtown venue. In San Francisco, it was possible to find a hotel within walking distance of the conference center. In Mountain View, that's nearly impossible. Much more time has been spent arranging transportation and riding on buses this year.
- For Google, the new location means having more control over the conference facilities. Apparently, Google owns a 60% interest in the Shoreline Amphitheater. Instead of having to work around the Moscone Center's supervisory authority, Google can plan and control almost all aspects of the conference. This means more time for setup and planning.
- For breakout sessions in the afternoon, there are twelve designated locations. Some of the breakout sessions take place in enclosed spaces that Google built just for this year's conference,while the outdoor amphitheater is used for some of the larger ones.
Of course, people don't attend Google I/O for the venue, they attend it so they can be at the forefront of cloud, mobile, IoT, development and search technologies. Not to disappoint, this year's Google I/O keynote included a vareity of interesting announcements.
Competing with Amazon Echo
Google will be invading Amazon Echo's territory with a new Google Home device. The device uses a technology named Google Assistance to create a rich interactive experience. In particular, the Home device will understand follow-up questions and answer questions in context.
Allo, Google's vastly enhanced messaging app, now provides facilities for quickly adjusting the size of the text. No more CAPITAL LETTER WORDS to emphasize your point. Allo also integrates photos, intelligently prepared responses and provides user-customized suggestions, such as where to eat, what movies to see, and so on, right to the messaging experience.
Duo is Google's new video conferencing app. Duo's Knock-Knock feature shows you real-time video from the caller's phone, allowing you to see the caller through their phone's camera while the caller requests a connection, taking call display to a completely new level.
Android N, announced earlier this year, has revealed some important improvements, with the capability to display two apps on the screen at once being a popular enhancement. The Overview button is much improved, allowing users to double-click the button to go back to the previous app. The Overview list also has a Clear option to remove clutter from the list. In addition, Android N includes a VR mode for use with wearable headsets.
Android Studio 2.2
For developers, Android Studio 2.2 boasts even more speed improvements. The newest version has support for Java 8 lambdas. (That's a really big deal!) For Espresso testing, Android will also have a recorder. This means that developers don't have to write cryptic Espresso code to create tests.
Other announcements include enhancements to Android Wear 2.0 that will allow users to see parts of apps embedded in their watchfaces. And for phones and tables, announcements included the ability for Android apps to be modularized. Using Instant Apps, users will be able to load an app, one that's not already installed on your device, with one click. The Play Store will quickly send you the parts of the app that you need immediately. If you want to use more of an app's features, you'll be able to download the remaining code from within the Instant Apps environment.
There is more to come, so stay tuned for more conference coverage from the tenth year of Google I/O.
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