Google s annual I/O conference begins in a couple of hours. Google is set to make some important announcements regarding its new products and plans. Besides Android N, this year s Google I/O is expected to see new products such as a standalone Android VR headset and more details about its important projects such as Tango, Ara and Aura. Here are some of the important announcements Google is likely to make at event, which begins later tonight. Also Read - Here's how US based Google Pay users can send money to IndiaAlso Read - Google starts showing COVID-19 vaccine information in Search app
Google s standalone VR
Yes, Android N is going to be the center of attraction, but I believe Google s new VR platform is going to stand out as the most disruptive product of this year. Based on a few rumors including the recent tweets from technology journalist Peter Rojas, Google s next generation virtual reality platform, dubbed the Android VR, will not need any additional hardware such as gaming console, PC or smartphones to run.
Currently, popular VR based devices like the Samsung Galaxy Gear, Oculus Rift and HTC Vive need additional hardware. Samsung s Galaxy VR works with select Galaxy smartphones, while Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and Sony s VR need PCs and gaming consoles respectively. Google should be given credit for bringing the virtual reality to masses with its affordable Cardboard platform, which had launched about two years ago. For the first time, Google will also broadcast a VR stream for I/O 2016, where users will be able to watch the live stream in 360-degrees using Cardboard as well as other VR headsets. Google has also updated the iOS Youtube app to support VR feeds.
In the last two years, virtual reality has grown exponentially with bigwigs like Microsoft, Facebook, HTC and Samsung joining the bandwagon. If Google pulls off a good enough standalone VR device, it could set a new benchmark in the industry as well as help make the next wave of technology more accessible to end users. Moreover, it already looks like that the future VR devices will be standalone ones. Samsung recently announced that it is working on a standalone device, which may also feature hand and gesture tracking features.
Each year Google reveals its latest Android iteration at I/O and this year we are going to see Android N. The difference this year being that Google has already released two developer previews of Android N to get a head start and ensure Android smartphones running the latest operating system are launched in a timely manner. This could have been done at the behest of its hardware partners, who have been facing an uphill challenge of competing with the latest iPhones that launch in September.
Google is likely to further elaborate the new features of Android and also give an idea about the hardware to receive the update first. According to Google s schedule, the previews will get updates until July. So, we can expect the final rollout by September. Among the first devices to get the update are likely to be Google s Nexus devices as well as new Nexus devices, which are going to be launched by HTC sometime later this year.
But more importantly (no, really), we are finally going to know what N stands for. Indian fans have been long demanding an Android version to be named after an Indian dessert. I am not really sure Google will finally make it happen this time. However, chances are it could go with Nutella, something Google had hinted in the first announcement, which will be globally relevant and could be a follow up on its marketing partnership around KitKat.
Google is reportedly working on a voice-enabled IoT product called Google Home. The mechanism of the device is likely to be similar to Amazon s Echo. According to reports, Google Home would be able to take voice commands and answer questions. At its I/O tonight, Google is expected to demo the new device and explain its usability. Google is likely to commercially roll out the product by the end of this year.
After Microsoft and Facebook (Messenger) introduced AI-based chatbots, reports suggest Google will also introduce its messaging based chatbots. Google is expected to integrate these chatbots to its messaging services like Hangouts, or perhaps launch a standalone messaging platform altogether. Google may also be looking to partner with service providers and third party app developers to integrate these bots into their services.
Xiaomi Mi Box
Xiaomi could possibly launch a variant of its Mi Box at the event. Xiaomi’s Hugo Barra had sent out a couple of teasers on social media showing off what Xiaomi could showcase at the event. The buttons on the teasers seemed to be from the remote control of Xiaomi’s Mi Box 3, which is its equivalent of the Apple TV and runs on Android. It could possibly mark the beginning of Xiaomi’s foray into the US and European markets.
While there has been no noise around Android One for quite some time, it could possibly make a comeback at this year s Google I/O. Earlier this month Mike Hayes, the director of business development, for Android and Chrome partnerships at Google, was quoted as saying the Android One project is still going on. Google recently brought back Motorola CEO, Rick Osterloh, to head its hardware division and he will also oversee the Android One project.
If you look at Google s schedule for the I/O 2016, Project Tango will be getting a dedicated session. Google has already made some advancements and has even found a hardware partner in the form of Lenovo. Earlier this year, Google and Lenovo collaborated to show off an augmented reality based smartphone. Project Tango enables you to 3D map the surroundings. The hardware comes with multiple cameras including a regular camera and a depth sensing camera along with motion tracking in order to achieve 3D mapping. One of the main highlights of the technology is that it allows you to do so in real time, and is going to be interactive.
Lenovo has plans to launch the device by June or July this year. The Project Tango smartphone will come with a large 6.5-inch display and be powered by a Qualcomm processor. According to reports, the smartphone will be made available for $500, which is Rs 33,000 approximately. We are hoping Google to showcase the reference hardware and details about wider usability of the technology.
Self driving cars and Android Auto
I don t think Google s self-driving cars will see commercial rollout any time sooner. But we can expect Google to showcase is more capabilities of Google Auto. Besides being in test stages, Google has tied up with Fiat Chrysler to manufacturer Pacifica minivans exclusively for Google that will come factory fitted with its self-driving technology. There could also be some announcements around a refreshed Android Auto interface.
Google Glass may not have been a success by any measure, but Google doesn t seem to be in any mood to quit. Project Aura is basically Google Glass 2.0, and we expect the company to showcase it at I/O. It is likely to be the same Enterprise Edition, which was spotted on FCC towards the end of last year. The next-gen Google Glass is likely to boast a foldable design, which will make it much easier to carry around. As per leaks, the power button on the new Google Glass is now at the back, and it is expected to be powered by Intel s Atom processor, and feature better performance, battery life and connectivity options. However, it remains to be seen what happens on the processor front after Intel shut down its mobile processor development efforts.
Google s much-anticipated Project Ara is also going to mark its presence at this year s I/O. The project has already seen multiple delays, and of late there s been barely any buzz about the modular smartphone/device concept. It was believed that Google may have shelved the plans. Evidently, the project isn t dead and is going to create some buzz at the event.
If you haven t followed developments around Project Ara, it is modular-based smartphone where customers can buy a basic smartphone and add hardware modules such as battery, camera or fingerprint readers if they want. The basic smartphone is believed to be priced at $50 or roughly Rs 3,300.
Accelerated Mobile Pages
Google earlier this year introduced Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP), which offers better mobile browsing with faster loading of web pages along with much better and cleaner interface and it. Think of it of Google s version of Facebook s Instant Articles. Both Google and Facebook are eyeing the emerging markets, where still a large population is on slower networks, with such optimized platform for content providers. We can expect Google to widen coverage of AMP by making it available to more publishers globally, if not all.