Google I/O is only a few days and it’s a ghost town regarding what to expect. There have been a rather small number of rumors, but using these rumors, we can take a stab at what kinds of things Google will be announcing at the keynote.
This year Google is in an excellent position with regards to its current platforms. Android N is already announced and is getting great feedback. Android Wear and Auto have grown steadily. Android TV has also become a popular STB platform. Chrome is now the most popular web browser. Google’s corporate transition has had relatively few problems. Now it’s owned by Alphabet, and Sundar Pichai has moved to the spot of Google CEO.
Based on many rumors, Google seems to be exploring new territory this year, with some ventures that they hope will pay off. There are new technologies that other companies have introduced in the past year, and we can see where the industry is moving. While a wide range of sessions will be taking place during the three-day event, and many usual topics will be covered, expect to see some ideas discussed more than others.
In the recent few days we’ve seen all the evidence and are just short of an official VR announcement from Google themselves. A stand alone headset is expected to be announced and what integration it could have with the rest of the platform is unknown for now beyond the listed sessions on the I/O schedule, a reference in the latest preview of the Unreal Engine and a tweet from Peter Rojas.
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
Always-Listening Utility (Think Amazon Echo)
Amazon’s Echo is a pretty nifty gadget. You can activate and control it entirely with your voice, and you have to. Still, with a growing set of uses and developer interest, it’s clear that voice actions can create a compelling experience. Google, having built up their own voice engine over the past several years, definitely appears to see the value in this product. Their investments in neural networks and AI allow these voice commands to be completed with much better accuracy. A rumor from 9to5Google suggests a new product called “Chirp” that will do many of the same actions as Alexa and as Google voice search. It’ll likely be powered by Google’s IoT OS Brillo and communicate using their communication standard Weave.
Android on PCs
There is the mobile OS Android and the desktop OS ChromeOS. While these two have been maintained independently, there do seem to be attempts to bring them together. Sundar once managed Chrome in Google. Then he moved to managing Chrome and Android. At that point, rumors began about a unified Android OS across all device types. Google announced the ARC Welder, which could convert some Android apps to ChromeOS apps. It was rather limited, though, and we haven’t heard much since being announced.
A leaked screenshot suggests that Google Play apps are coming to Chrome. If all of them are supported, as opposed to only a handful, this could be the Trojan Horse that puts Android apps on all devices.
This does seem to tie together a lot of recent puzzle pieces. The Pixel C was an awkward tablet at first launch, according to many reviews. Android N brought multi-window support, but it seemed to be originally meant for Chrome OS. Now, if these two OSes are going to merge this year or the next, then this change makes sense. Soon Chrome OS and Android will be virtually indistinguishable. Although the core of each may be different, they’ll run the same apps. You’ll be able to launch apps in windows and use multi-window support to resize them however you want. It will probably be too early to see more than a working demo, though, if at all.
Family Sharing of Media & Apps
Families will often consist of several Google accounts, and that can make things like purchasing movies and music rather awkward. Do we each buy a game? Does someone rip the apk and send it to your other family members to sideload? Does someone add their account to every device as the “media” account? Google will likely announce Family Sharing at I/O. It’s something that’s been hinted at in their apps.
Basically, accounts can be added to families and any media purchased will be available to everyone else. Although user accounts seem to be coming to Android TV as well, being able to get access to everyone’s media quickly is indeed desired.
Brillo & Weave/ IoT Integrations
With the internet of things( IoT) on the rise, it’s all the more likely that set-top boxes will get ways to control numerous things in your house because we’re going full circle here and the TV is once again the main center of attention and things can revolve around it once more. With speculation on an Amazon Echo competitor named Chip I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Android TV ecosystem dipping into its capability to make it more attractive to the average consumer.
Stay tuned to this blog when Google I/O begins next Wednesday. Nick will be there and will be reporting live on all things Android TV. The keynote starts at 10am PT (1pm ET), so make sure you follow along!