Google I/O 2016 Roundup, Part 1: Google Assistant, Google Home, Allo-Duo, Android N
Google I/O 2016 is here, and with it come a slew of new announcements: ranging from new products and services, to new improvements to older products and services. A lot of these products and services are overlapping and interconected, as Google sees them as a collective effort towards a connected future.
Here is a recap summary of what Google I/O 2016 has shown us so far:
If you have been a constant user of Google Now and have incorporated it into your schedule and routines, you will love Google Assistant. Think of it as Google Now 2.0, with the addition that it expands beyond your phone all the way to Android Wear, Android Auto and also to your house with the new Google Home, working seamlessly across devices and contexts.
Google Assistant is, as you’d expect, a virtual assistant. It focuses more on a conversational approach to your queries, rather than thinking of them as strict individual questions. Like Google Now, Google Assistant will also incorporate machine learning to tailor results not only on who is asking them, but also on the context of the question. Google Assistant bears what Google Now did not, but competitors like Apple’s Siri did: a personality, as it hooks onto the other aspects of your connected life to tailor itself to best suit you over time. There is also a promise for third party integration, allowing other providers to add their own services inside Assistant.
The personality aspect of Google Assistant takes power from two other product and service, mentioned in this article.
Google Home is the newest product to come out from Google. Home is the direct competitor to Amazon’s Echo, bringing Google Assistant to all corners of your house. Using the same conversational approach leveraged from Google Assistant, Google Home will allow you to manage everyday tasks, consume media and ask Google in a very natural and seamless way. It also hooks up to other speakers through Google Cast, allowing for multi room playback for audio. In the future, Google Home will also plug right in with Nest and other IoT standards and products, allowing for a seamless and hassle free experience.
Hardware wise, Google Home is small and features customizable bases, which will give you options for different colors and materials. The device will be released later this year. More information is promised to be shared with the developer community soon.
Allo and Duo
If you think Google has abandoned Hangouts, Messenger and any other similar app it may have developed, Allo and Duo will reinforce your thoughts that it has indeed.
Allo (Get it Here!) is the new(est) messaging app that comes from Google’s stable. What is special about Allo that sets it apart from the other stuff from Google is that it comes with Google Assistant integration. This allows you to interact with Assistant within the messaging app itself. This opens up the use cases of adding a virtual assistant to groups, or using the virtual assistant as a bot à-la Telegram. But, since Google Assistant also extends onto other parts of the Google ecosystem, you get much better personalizationsand tailored results based on your personal contexts.
Google Assistant and its use of machine learning and natural language also extends the benefits to Smart Reply. Allo suggests responses to messages based on the context of the chat, extending beyond text to even photos. The responses themselves are varied and natural, and include emojis, stickers and photos. Then there’s service integration as well, so you can do stuff like search for restaurants and book a dinner table from within a group conversation. More info on service integration for the developer community was promised soon.
Allo enables encryption by default for all users and use cases, but also features an Incognito mode. This provides end-to-end encryption along with other neat features likes discreet notifications and message expiration. By themselves, these features are not new and seen in various messaging clients, but Google’s implementation makes for a unique all-in-one package with Google Assistant and Duo, their video companion app.
Duo (Get it Here!) is a video-based companion app for Allo, focusing on one-to-one video calling (upto 720p) with end-to-end encryption. Google promises that Duo works faster and reliably on slower network speeds as well. Aside from all the video calling capabilities, Duo introduces what is called Knock Knock. This feature presents a live feed from the callers end before you pick up the video call, giving you a context to the upcoming personal conversation and avoiding some potentially awkward or inconvenient situations.
Allo and Duo are based on phone numbers, and are available for both iOS and Android.
Right off the bat, the name of Android N is not finalized. We expected no less, as the name is usually left as the surprise for the Android focused event held in the latter part of the year. However, this time around, Google is actually officially taking in suggestions for the name of the next Android version. Users can submit in their name suggestions on Android.com/n, although Google does retain the right to pick winners lest people want it named Nutty McNuttace.
Moving on to the Android N update and the improvements under the hood, Android N focuses on three areas primarily: Performance, Security and Productivity.
For helping with Performance, Google has turned its focus towards graphics and runtime. Android N leverages extended OpenGL standard for better graphics capabilities. Also affecting Android and gaming on Android in a big way is the introduction of the Vulkan API, giving developers access to modern 3D graphics API with direct control of GPU. Vulkan will allow games to squeeze in more high quality effects per frame, while still outputting high frame rates due to comparatively lower CPU overheads.
The Android N compiler has received a shot in the arm too. With the optimizations Google has done this time around, app installs on devices are up to 75% faster in Android N. Storage space needed for app code has been reduced massively as well, with a promise of up to 50% reduction.
Much to the loud applause of the audience, Google also announced that the bane-of-existence of all Android enthusiasts, the “Android is optimizing” screen on boot has been massively quickened up to the point of non-existence thanks to the optimizations to the Just-In-Time compiler. Finally, Android updates will be seamless (inspired by ChromeOS’ method!) as there will be a separate system partition where the phone will update in the background — simply turn it off and on and there you are!
Android N now features file-level encryptions. This is different from prior releases which adopted a block level encryption pattern. Also, after learning from past mistakes like Stagefright, Android N hardens the mediaframework present in the OS.
To improve on the Security aspect of Android N, Google is also offering seamless updates of the OS. New system images will be downloaded in the background and installed, allowing a seamless switch into the new software image.
Inspired by how Chromebooks apply updates, we’re introducing seamless updates, so that new Android devices built on N can install system updates in the background. This means that the next time a user powers up their device, new devices can automatically and seamlessly switch into the new updated system image.
And in this section, Google has made official for public release what we have been seeing in the Developer Releases of the past few Android versions: multiwindow!
Multiwindow in Android is being implemented in two ways: via split screen and via PIP (Picture-in-Picture). Split screen is for traditional Android devices like phones and tablets, while PIP is reserved for Android TV. Users can now long tap on the recents button to activate split screen mode in supported apps.
The Recents App screen is also seeing “improvements” coming along its way. Google concluded that 99% of the instances of app switching involved going back to an app within the last 7 used apps, so Google has removed apps from the recents screen that you have not used in a while. This should limit the number of cards present in view, and make the carousel finite. You can also double tap the recents button within any app to quickly switch to the last used app.
Notifications have received small improvements as well. The most noticeable of the lot is the inclusion of direct reply on notifications. You can also now long press on notification to change its notifying priority.
Unicode 9 brings 72 new emojis. You can now choose from emojis with color, and can also better represent professionals of the fair gender.
This wraps up the first part of our Google I/O 2016 roundup. More, like Android and VR, Android Wear coming up in the second part!
What are your thoughts on the announcements on Android N and the others mentioned in this roundup? Let us know in the comments below!