Report: Google to Introduce Android VR, Amazon Echo Competitor; Delays 3D Touch
Google I/O is coming up next week, so we’ve been seeing a lot of leaks building up to the developer conference. These past two days in particular have seen some interesting reports leaked through the grapevine.
Virtual Reality is a pretty big deal lately, if you haven’t already heard. More so, Google has already gauged the waters before making an official foray into VR with the likes of Google Cardboard. So it’s not at all surprising to hear that Google may be introducing Android VR next week at Google I/O. Peter Rojas, who is known to the tech world as the founder of Engadget and Gizmodo, claims that Android VR will indeed be introduced next week at Google I/O and that it will almost certainly be a standalone headset. Furthermore, he states that the product is more powerful than the Samsung Gear VR but less so compared to the Oculus Rift/HTC Vive (which is to be expected considering the base hardware).
Android VR will definitely be announced next week, and from what I’ve heard will be less powerful than the Vive or Rift.
— Peter Rojas (@peterrojas) May 11, 2016
We can’t corroborate these rumors from Mr. Rojas, but given the lining on the wall it’s pretty much confirmed by this point. We’ve already seen mentions of Android VR in the latest Unreal Engine developer preview, for instance. There have been hints of VR support in the latest Android N Developer Preview. The Wall Street Journal published a report back in February indicating the existence of this standalone Android VR headset, too. Google I/O also has multiple events on the agenda regarding VR this year. Google may as well be screaming “ANDROID VR” in our faces by this point.
Google to take on Amazon Echo with ‘Chirp’
Tech blog recode seems to have little birds everywhere, including within Google. And they’re telling the blog that Google plans on introducing a competitor to Amazon’s Echo that is reportedly code-named ‘Chirp.’ According to the report, the device will resemble its very own OnHub wireless router and will be a portable speaker with voice assistant technology. We’re all familiar with Google’s voice assistant on Android devices (which we colloquially call ‘Google Now’ although Google Now encompasses a wide variety of services) that we can access simply by saying “OK Google.” Accessing Google’s personal assistance feature requires your phone to be listening for a keyword, which is only really feasible on a limited amount of devices that have dedicated voice recognition chips. With a dedicated device in your home, however, this limitation is moot.
The Information previously ran a report indicating the existence of ‘Chirp’. Google selling an Echo competitor is a pretty logical next step in expanding its dominance in the search space, so I’m fairly confident in the veracity of these reports. Recode claims the device will launch next week at Google I/O.
Google Delays 3D Touch
One of Apple’s biggest marketing points for their latest generation iOS devices is their ability to distinguish between various levels of pressure applied by your finger, dubbed ‘3D Touch.’ Pressure sensitive screens are by no means new technology, as this is basically how screens with Wacom-made digitizer layers are able to discriminate between so many pressure points when you use a stylus. However, the software support has basically been non-existent on both Android and iOS for the longest time.
Samsung’s various proprietary apps that come with their Galaxy Note series supported some levels of pressure-sensitive touch, but the capability does not extend to apps that are not targeted to this line-up. Android does have the ability to measure the pressure value of any tap you make on the screen (shown as PRS values when enabled in developer settings), but you really can’t do much with these values yet. An Xposed module creates some level of integration with these pressure values and system actions, but it’s a hacky method that is unreliable because a) the proper digitizer hardware just isn’t there on most phones and b) developers haven’t really baked in support within their apps. That’s why we were hoping to see some level of 3D Touch/Force Touch support in Android N.
Indeed, we saw some indications that such a feature was coming in Android N thanks to a discovery by the developer of Nova Launcher, Kevin Barry. However, Recode is here to dash our hopes with a report that Google will be delaying Force Touch for a future release. We don’t know if this is true, and if it is, WHY it’s being delayed. Apple’s very own 3D Touch has had a rough time being adopted by developers, after all, so Google may be delaying it to ensure its implemented properly.
Are you interested in an Android VR headset? What about ‘Chirp’? How do you feel about force touch? Let us know your thoughts!