The first Google I/O keynote just wrapped up and Sundar Pichai & Co had lots to say. New smart home gadgets! New all-powerful AI bots! New VR goodies! Next-generation messaging apps! Dad jokes and hijinks! Whoa.
We synthesised the chaos into the 12 best and worst things from Google I/O. Here’s a look at what Google has in store for your connected future.
Best: Google Home is the smart home hub I absolutely want to buy
We had a good idea that this little guy was coming thanks to a sprawling report by The New York Times, and the new gadget didn’t disappoint. Google Home is the first Google hardware that houses its new all-powerful AI bot, Google Assistant.
Home is very much reminiscent of Amazon Echo, which Google CEO Sundar Pichai even acknowledged during the keynote. But because it’s backed by Google’s powerful new Assistant, this odd, elegant table-top device has the potential to surpass the Echo. Home has speakers, a far-field microphone, and can connect with all your disparate smart electronics like Nest and Chromecast. It also comes in customisable colours and can even create a sort-of AI mesh network by connecting other hubs throughout your home. Convenient? Yep. Creepy? Also Yep.
Worst: It’s not available until the autumn
Best: Android gets a lot of simple but great updates
Unlike in years past, Android proper (that is, for your smartphone) wasn’t the star of show, but that doesn’t mean it was all quiet on the mobile front. Instead of showing off big sweeping design changes (we already saw those in an earlier developer beta of Android N) Google introduced little additions that make the Android experience much better. The multitasking carousel gets a handy “clear all” button, and apps get picture-in-picture support.
Even Android Wear got some love!
Worst: Android N still doesn’t have a name
Dammit, Google! Just name it Nerds and get it over with. Google said that for the first time it’s opening up the name choice for the new version to fans, but it reserves the right to choose the final nomenclature. So no, it won’t be called Android Namey McNameface.
Of course, 4chan is already trying to game the system.
Best: Google’s finally getting serious about VR
One of the big things we wanted to see from Google this year was a more substantial commitment to VR. Thankfully, Google VR boss Clay Bavor provided more details on what lies beyond Cardboard. The big announcement was a new VR platform called Daydream.
Bavor promises that there will be Daydream-enabled devices of different shapes and sizes, but for now, it’s just a set of guidelines for creating next-gen VR on Android. Much like VR-ready specifications for desktop machines, Google will also have Daydream-ready smartphone specs, listing the specific sensors, display resolutions, and chipsets necessary for the best Daydream experience. Luckily, most Android makers have said they’ll eagerly comply.
Worst: Its headset is just a drawing
Although Google’s plans are certainly interesting, there’s still no physical hardware. Google drew up a little reference design for a headset and controller that other people can make, but it would be nice if Google led by example here and built its own hardware. Right now, all we’ve got to go on is a video demo that doesn’t look drastically different from Gear VR. It’ll be a while before we can really strap Google’s VR vision to our faces.
Best: Google messaging gets a major upgrade
Google’s messaging apps, like Hangouts, are rather good, but not great when compared to Facebook Messenger or even iMessage. Google’s hoping to change that with Allo and Duo. These apps, which will be available on both Android and iOS, are the first software repositories for Google’s new AI brain. They include chatbot powers and also sport machine learning that will pre-populate responses so you don’t even have to text.
The demos looked cool, but we’ll withhold impressions until we actually get the app in our hands.
Worst: People think it will be a great app for dick pics
Duo’s Knock Knock feature beams an incoming video call straight to your lockscreen before you can even answer. Neat, in theory. Terrible if the person on the other end of the line wants to show you their genitals. People on Twitter already seized on this possibility.
This “knock knock” feature of Duo seems really dumb and easily abused. Imagine dick pics in places you shouldn’t see that shit from.
— KACL, Seattle (@poke493) May 18, 2016
Duo: dick pics 2.0, now with live animation and you can't avoid seeing it!
— Ahmad Nassri (@AhmadNassri) May 18, 2016
Knock knock in google’s new video app Duo is going to take unsolicited dick pics to a whole new level :(
— focalintent (@focalintent) May 18, 2016
this is gonna be NEXT LEVEL for dick pics hot damn
— eric limer (@ericlimer) May 18, 2016
Create a technology, and someone will find a way to fill it up with dicks.
Best: Allo will have the same end-to-end encryption as WhatsApp
Worst: It won’t be enabled by default
Encryption in Allo will be opt-in, which obviously hurts people less tech-inclined who will likely not even realise it’s a feature.
Making crypto opt-in hurts users who know least about tech. Google led industry w default HTTPS. Allo is a step back https://t.co/dzSOXHbdPV
— Christopher Soghoian (@csoghoian) May 19, 2016
It also shows how building a contextually aware app filled with chatbots that mine your personal data is fundamentally at odds with keeping your messages secure. It’s the ultimate showdown of convenience vs. privacy.
Best: Google declares war on needless apps
There are so many apps on our smartphones that only do one thing. Google’s new Instant Apps feature loads the sections of full apps that you need without ever having to download the standalone package itself. Combine this neat trick with the promise chatbots hold for doing away with most commerce apps, and needless smartphone bloat could soon be a thing of the past.
Worst: All these new product and platform names are kind of silly
Allo. Sounds like the name of tween One Direction cover band. All cool ideas — with less-than-cool names.
Best: Android finally comes to Chrome OS
We’ve been waiting a long, long time for Android and Chrome OS to get together, and now they’re closer than ever. On Thursday, Google announced during an I/O session that Chrome OS will be getting the Google Play store—with a million or so apps along with it. It’s a massive extension of Google’s previous Runtime App for Chrome, and it has huge implications for making Chrome OS a real competitor for your core computing needs.
What’s additionally awesome is the Google recognises that it will need to up its hardware game to take advantage of all the Android apps out there, so the Chrome team is partnering with Samsung to make “high-end” devices for doing just that. Cool!
Worst: This also won’t be available until autumn
Best: This Good Guy Google shout out to Amazon for making Echo
How specifically non-Apple of you, Google.
Worst: Hanging up on your kids in front of millions of people