The 10th annual Google I/O conference is set to kick-off on the 17th of May, at the Shoreline Amphitheater in Mountain View (CA). Last year’s event had witnessed the presence of more than 7000 attendees – and the number of delegates at the 2017 edition is likely to grow further. Interestingly, and encouragingly for the global tech community, the percentage of women attendees at Google I/O has been rising each year – and reached 23% in 2016. As it happens every year, there are already quite a bit of speculations about the announcements that Google will make at this year’s developer conference. We will here look at all the major expectations from Google I/O 2017:
- Expansion in Google Assistant functionalities – Google Assistant debuted at I/O 2016 – and it received the thumbs-up from general users and mobile app developers alike – thanks to its powerful features and excellent contextual awareness. CEO Sundar Pichai had also talked in detail about AI (artificial intelligence) and machine-learning. At this year’s I/O, it can be reasonably expected that Google Assistant will get an update – with its functionality being expanded to smart cars, smart TVs, and other high-end gadgets. The underlying voice assistance technology might undergo some improvements as well.
- More on Android Wear 2.0 – Announced in May 2016, Android Wear 2.0 sure took a long time in getting released. It was finally launched in February 2017 (Android base 7.1.1) – and with the global market for wearable technology heating up, more is expected to be heard at this year’s Google I/O, on Android Wear. Multiple new features can be showcased, including quick replies for smartwatches, more wrist gestures, and a separate, properly functional Play Store for Android Wear applications. Other things, like handwriting recognition and a brand new UI, may be showcased too. For starters though, Google needs to explain the rollout plan for Android Wear 2.0 in detail.
Note: There are no chances of Android Wear 3.0 making an appearance at I/O 2017.
3. Android O – Google has traditionally used the I/O platform to reveal interesting new features about upcoming Android versions (last year, Doze battery saver and split-screen mode for Android Nougat were highlighted). This year, more light will be shed on the capabilities of Android O (i.e., Android 8.0) – including how the new platform will manage notifications and enhance battery/device performances. The first alpha developer preview of Android O was released in March – and we will probably get to know which dessert ‘O’ stands for sometime in June.
4. Firebase – Google’s Firebase has been hailed as an excellent cloud platform for managing a wide range of app services – right from app development and tracking, to overall controlling/monitoring. According to reports in various Android forums on the web, Google I/O 2017 will witness important upgrades to Firebase, for improving app availability figures over the cloud, bolstering the business models of cloud developers, and making things more systematic and streamlined. Attendees might also be acquainted with the best practices for using Google Cloud.
5. Augmented reality with Project Tango – Given the attention augmented reality (AR) received at CES 2017 (in January), it can pretty much be assumed that it will be dealt upon at the I/O event as well. Google has been working on the ambitious Project Tango platform for close to three years now (the platform was launched in June 2014) – and it would not be surprising if new AR-based mobile apps and devices are presented at the upcoming conference. The Tango technology creates a completely customized 3D world via depth sensing and motion tracking – over the physical environments of users. It will be fascinating to find out how Google plans to take this forward.
6. More software and hardware for Daydream – There will be a special section at Google I/O 2017, where the advantages of using Unity 3D game engine for virtual reality (VR) applications will be deliberated upon. There are also chances of Google taking this opportunity to announce new, cutting-edge hardware tools and software solutions for its Daydream platform – allowing a smooth progress beyond Google Cardboard. Claude Zellweger, the design lead of HTC, joined the Daydream platform (as the Head of ID) this January – and there have been reports of Zellweger and his team having started work on an advanced Google VR headset. Expect to know more about that in the conference.
Note: Asus Zenfone AR is one of the several ‘Daydream-ready mobile phones’ already launched by different original equipment manufacturers. More Android Nougat devices will be made compatible with the Daydream platform.
7. Google Allo to be updated – Last year’s Google I/O conference saw the launch of Google Allo – an all-new built-in messaging app for Android users. Since then though, things have remained mostly static on the Allo front – with Google not bringing any significant updates, and usage figures remaining on the lower side. In all probability, a more powerful and well-rounded version of Google Allo will be showcased at the 2017 event – with built-in integration with the complete version of Google Assistant (Allo currently can be used with Assistant to a limited extent). The smart replies of Allo might get an upgrade too, along with the app’s capability of grasping information from pictures. The focus will be on motivating users to give Allo a try – and Google will be ringing the changes for that.
8. New collaborations for Google Home – Yet another technology that was first presented at the 2016 I/O, and did not manage its way to the markets until much later. The Google Home smart voice assistant hit the US markets in November 2016, and it will arrive in the UK this month (there is no news about the worldwide release of Google Home yet). Experts from the field of Internet of Things (IoT) fully expect Google to announce several new, high-profile partnerships and collaborations to expand the capabilities of Google Home. What’s more – the usability of Google Assistant in Home will also be enhanced. The $3.2 billion acquisition of Nest in 2014 proved that Google is serious about entering the IoT domain. Google Home will be an important cog in that wheel.
9. Project Fi for more devices – This is only an outside chance – but the announcement of Project Fi for more devices (in addition to the Google Pixel and Nexus phones) at the forthcoming Google I/O conference cannot be ruled out either. Project Fi has already become relatively popular as a reliable cross-carrier network – and users have liked the auto-switching of carriers for faster, better mobile data usage. It is indeed time for Google to roll out this tool to more Android handsets.
10. More on Google Duo – The personalized video-calling app that Google announced at I/O 2016 has failed to make much of a splash till now. Although the option seeing live video stream of callers before receiving a call (the video continues during the conversation as well) is interesting enough, Google Duo has not found many takers – and the company will surely looking to set that straight at the 2017 conference. According to many leading Android software and app developers, Duo might be integrated with Hangouts, to boost adoption rates and engagement. Also, with Hangouts becoming more business-oriented, the opportunities for Google Duo to become popular have increased. There should be some information shared on this at the conference.
Note: The video-streaming feature of Google Duo is called ‘Knock Knock’. The app, of course, is available on both Android and iOS.
11. The road ahead for Chrome OS – Google’s stand on Chrome OS is rather confusing. Although it has been confirmed that all Chromebooks launched in 2017 will support Android apps, there are no chances of Chrome OS and Android to get unified in the foreseeable future (as reiterated by Hiroshi Lockheimer, a Senior VP at Google). There is, however, a probability of the OS getting some new features and user tricks this year. At the I/O conference, some more devices running on Chrome OS might also be announced.
12. A tease about Google’s autonomous cars – The venue of the annual Google I/O event was shifted from San Francisco (2008-15) to Mountain View last year, probably with a view to test out the company’s fleet of self-driving cars. The project received a serious setback last September – when a modified Lexus SUV was involved in a mjaor accident (at Mountain View). However, the fault was not due to any shortcomings in the technology (it was more of a human error). In December 2016, the self-driving vehicle project was spun into a separate company named Waymo – independent of Alphabet Inc. In I/O 2017, there are some (albeit slight) chances of more information about Google driverless cars becoming available.
13. A stronger Android Auto ecosystem – Google also has scopes to to make Android Auto more powerful and feature-rich. By the end of 2022, it has been predicted that the total number of connected car units will inch close to the 40 million mark – and with Apple Car reportedly eyeing a 2019 release, Android Auto needs to improve fast. Not much has been heard about the ‘intelligent navigation system’ from Waze after it was first discussed in 2015 – and it can well be discussed at Google I/O 2017. More likely are the announcements of the arrival of more new vehicle models in the Android Auto ecosystem. Hyundai already offers support to Blue Link and Google Auto.
There are no practically no chances of any fresh information on Project Ara – Google’s modular smartphone – at the upcoming conference. While the project seemed promising enough in 2013, it kept losing steam, launch dates kept getting pushed back, and Google finally suspended the project in September 2016.
At the I/O 2017 conference, attending developers will get the opportunity to check out the latest Google APIs, communicate on a one-on-one basis with Google executives, and build their peer networks. Billed as an ‘outdoor developer festival’ – Google I/O has always been one of the most exciting events in the annual tech calendar, and this year is not going to be any exception.