This week has been Google I/O (Input/Output), Google’s annual software conference. Every year Google makes game changing announcements about their platforms and future plans; this year was no exception. Below are our top 5 favorite announcements from Google I/O this week!
Google Now and the Future
While Google Now may currently be a feature primarily used by Android power-users, Google made it clear that Google Now has a very bright future ahead. In fact, some are even claiming that the advancements to Google Now could make apps obsolete. Here is why:
In the current state of apps, we as users identify a need, navigate to the applicable app, and carry out the task or function at hand. However, we do all of the thinking and navigating; a time-consuming process. The vision of Google Now is to create intelligence that learns you and has contextual awareness to provide you with information at the time you need it.
Currently, the Google Now app primarily uses time, location, and behavioral history to offer you relevant information. Leave work at the same time everyday and use Google Maps? Google Now will learn your habit and bring up relevant traffic information to help you get home in record time everyday. Google’s ambitions are to develop this technology to the extent to where you never have to choose an app again, the phone makes those decisions for you. You simply digest the content.
One of the ways in which Google is moving towards this ambition is through Google Now on Tap. What this allows Google Now to do is provide information from other apps without having to navigate to the app itself. For example, if someone were to text you about your choice of Mexican food restaurants for dinner, you could simply hold the home button and Google Now might pull info from Urban Spoon to recommend nearby Mexican restaurants. As Google grows in their understandings of why people use their phones at certain times and in specific places, we could get to the point where we simply turn on, consume, and turn off our phones without much thinking/navigating involved. The demo and progress are impressive, but Google definitely has a way to go before they arrive at their desired Utopian state.
If you’re anything like me, you were probably confused when Google made the announcement of Android pay. Google Wallet has been around for years, why are they releasing a new version of mobile NFC payments? The keywords are ‘convenience’ and ‘ease-of-use.’ While Google Wallet was its own app that you had to fiddle on the roof with, Android pay is ready to provide payment information as long as the phone is unlocked. Simply hold your unlocked phone next to an NFC chip and you’re paid.
You may be wondering why they didn’t just release this as an upgrade to Google Wallet. It would seem to be a logical place to improve upon an application that serves basically the same purpose. This is clearly a strategic marketing move on Google’s part. With the release and popularity of Apple Pay and the ‘not-so-well-known’ Google Wallet, Google needed a way to grab people’s attention. It is a much better headline when Google announces a “sexy new service” that rivals Apple Pay as opposed to Google releasing a boring app update to an app that you don’t recognize and as such, don’t consider important. Well played Google.
Brillo – Googlify Your Home
Another exciting announcement from Google this past week was Brillo. Brillo is a form of the Android operating system specifically designed for the Internet of Things (IoT). This means connecting your dishwasher, fridge, thermostat, and more to your phone, the supermarket, and maybe one day the moon. (Sarcasm on that last point) It will also create a centralized intelligence for your devices. Imagine a motion sensor on your door that starts the process of cooking bacon as soon as you wake up. That is the potential of such centralized intelligence.
An important layer of Brillo is Weave. Weave creates a common language and protocol for connected devices to follow. Today, many connected devices arrive with their own ecosystem. For example, many smart-bulbs require that you buy a specific hub to control them. If Google’s Weave becomes the standard, it could become the universal control/hub for all connected device.
Google isn’t alone in their efforts of advancing the Internet of Things forward by creating a universal language. Earlier this year Panasonic released free access to their patented IoT software and framework in order to advance the industry. It will be interesting to see which platform gains stronger mainstream adoption and becomes the standard over the next few years.
Google Cardboard 2.0
At last year’s Google I/O, the company entered the virtual reality space with a small piece of cardboard. This simple piece of cardboard that converted your phone into a VR headset at first glance seemed to be more of a conference party gift than a legitimate product. However, the world was intrigued and many people started succesfully selling their own iterations of the Google Cardboard online. This year, Google is taking it up a notch with a new version of the cardboard that can fit larger phones up to 6 inches. They even released an app for iOS, so now you can use your iPhone 6 Plus to enjoy some virtual reality on the cheap!
Google has also released an app for developers to be used in tandem with Google Cardboard. The purpose of this app is to demo the potential of Virtual Reality and to teach developers tips and best practices for creating compelling content for any VR device. As many have lost their dinner from the motion sickness of VR, these tips are critical for keeping your house clean. Thank you Google.
Google’s ATAP (Advanced Technologies and Projects) team unveiled a number of new future technologies. Yesterday, we reported on Google’s advanced threads that will allow for touch sensitive fabrics for inputs to your devices. Another incredible advancement displayed was in the field of authentication.
The subject of authentication is already somewhat taboo. Creating a unique identity for users has been a challenge spanning the course of decades. Most bio-metric forms of authentication can be spoofed and passwords guessed. Google is working towards the use of your daily behavior as your key for accessing anything with a gateway. Everything from the way you move, the places you go, to the apps you use and the way you type are indicative of who you are. Google wants to tap into creating a unique behavior profile for authentication. Even the way that you pick up your phone is unique and the accelerometer can sense such differences for identification purposes. (See the graph above for details.) A world without forgotten passwords is a better world.
Google continues to extend its digital reach across a myriad of industries, and this year a few more. It will be interesting to see how well Google is able to gain market-share across industries as they attempt to juggle so many different products and services. What are your thoughts? Do you think Google may be spreading itself to thin? Or do you just bask in Google’s ambition to innovate? Let us know in the comments below.