Android P, Google Assistant, lots of AI
Google’s biggest event of the year is here.
Google I/O, the company’s annual developer conference, is set to kick off Tuesday morning at the Shoreline Amphitheatre in Mountain View, California. Things start with a keynote from CEO Sundar Pichai, followed by talks from other executives. While the event is always full of announcements, all signs point to an especially busy year for Google.
From the upcoming Android P update to new Google Assistant features and virtual reality and artificial intelligence, here’s a look at everything we’re expecting to hear about at Google I/O.
This one’s a given. Google I/O has historically been the venue where we get our first real deep dive into the next version of Android, and this year will be no different.
Google actually released the first developer preview of Android P back in March, so we already know a bit about it. One theme will be improvements that take advantage of current hardware trends, such as dual cameras and display notches, both of which are increasingly common in Android flagships.
Also expect to hear more about Google’s plan to revamp Android messaging. The company’s talked at length about its vision for the future, which centers around something called Chat, but we’ll likely hear about it in even more detail during I/O.
Privacy will also be a big emphasis for the P update. Android P will block apps from accessing your phone’s microphone or camera while your phone is idle, as we know. But there could very likely be more privacy-focused updates as well.
As with Android updates of the last couple years, we should also expect more features that improve the core functions of the operating system, such as notifications and security.
Oh, and about this year’s dessert-themed release name, Google typically waits until sometime after I/O to reveal it, though the company has dropped a couple hints that suggest “pineapple” may be a frontrunner.
Google Assistant’s dominance
Google Assistant has come a long way since last year’s I/O, when the company launched a pretty shaky version of its standalone Assistant app. Luckily for Google, the company’s managed to iron out the early bugs for pretty solid results.
Outside of that, Google’s Assistant is more dominant than ever, thanks in large part to a marketing blitz and a heavily discounted Google Home Mini. (Expect the company to tout its recently released news that it now works with every major smart home brand.) The last year has also seen Google slowly bring its Assistant to just about every platform it touches, from phones and watches to cars and TVs and kitchen appliances.
In terms of what’s next, we should expect updates to its capabilities (perhaps some new Google Lens tie-ins?) and, possibly, see the Assistant coming to even more Google services.
AI will be everywhere
Just like every other major tech company, artificial intelligence will continue to be a huge focus for Google. Last year at I/O, Pichai spoke at length about the ongoing shift from a “mobile first” world to an “AI first” one, and this theme will no doubt continue.
As such, artificial intelligence will be a huge emphasis, underlying nearly all of Google’s announcements. At its Pixel 2 hardware event last year, the company presented the beginnings of its vision for a future in which artificial intelligence ties together its hardware and software. Expect much more on this theme.
While we don’t know specifics, Google will likely emphasize how it’s using AI to power services like Google Lens and Google Assistant.
And, since this is, after all, a developer conference, we’ll probably see updates that put more of Google’s AI power directly into the hands of developers.
AR and VR updates
Google’s VR platform Daydream may have gotten off to a slow start, but it’s still very much a priority for the company. Last year’s I/O saw Daydream 2.0, which aimed to make VR more social. We expect to learn what’s next for the platform this year.
We’ve also recently seen the first standalone headsets for the Daydream platform, thanks to Lenovo, and there could be more on that front as well.
This year’s I/O should also be heavy on AR news. In the past, many of Google’s augmented reality efforts have centered around Tango, which has very specific hardware requirements. Now, we could see Google take an even more open approach to AR.
ARCore, Google’s platform for augmented reality app development, officially launched in February, and we’ve slowly started to see more AR apps in the Play Store. However, ARCore compatibility has still been limited to a handful of devices — though Google has promised more, which we hope to hear more about.
Interestingly, Google may have another solution to make AR even more accessible: Chrome. In January, the company previewed a plan to bring augmented reality to the web via an update to the browser. We haven’t heard too much about it since (you can see a preview in the GIF, above), but if we’re due for an update, I/O would certainly be the place to do it.
Rumors point to a few other updates.
According to a Bloomberg report last week, Google is working on a social gaming startup called Arcade. Interestingly, the secretive project is headed up by Michale Sayman, the 21-year-old engineer Facebook tapped to make one of its wannabe Snapchat clones. It’s not clear if Arcade will make its debut at I/O, but it’d be interesting to see a gaming announcement from the company.
Another late-breaking rumor suggests Google plans to launch a redesigned version of its News app, which draws on the same technology that powers Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) technology, according to AdAge.
There could also be more on the design front. The Verge notes that Google’s Material Design theme is due for a refresh, and a look at an early version of Chrome seems to hint at an updated version of Google’s design language. The company’s recent updates to Gmail and Calendar could also offer an early look at such a change.