It’s the season of conferences for mobile developers. Alphabet (Google’s parent company) kickstarted it with its annual I/O conference a couple of weeks ago. It shows us where the Android platform is headed and what else it has in store for the mobile industry.
While we get updates on Android N, a nifty new feature called Android Instant Apps (which will let you access app content without having to download said app), Google Home, and many more. We’re choosing to keep this short and sweet and focusing on three announcements that makes us excited for what’s coming up from the tech giant.
Google’s smarter Assistant
Google Now is useful for simple tasks like setting alarms or reminders but your conversation with it gets stilted. With Google Assistant, they hope to get rid of that feeling. This extension of Google Now hopes to give off that feeling that you’re having, as Google CEO Sundar Pichai says, “an ongoing two-way dialog” with the virtual assistant. You can ask the assistant follow-up questions with it being able to keep up with you.
Not much is clear about how wide the reach of Google Assistant is but we’d expect Google to integrate it into all its services. What we do know is it’ll be making its way to Google’s new smart chat app, Allo (more on that later), and even its Google Home speaker (which is the company’s competitor against Amazon’s Echo). It’ll allow you to do things like purchase movie tickets, organize your to-do list, and the like. To see it in action, even for a bit, check out the video below.
(Day)dreaming of VR
We’ve all seen the expensive and extremely high-tech virtual reality headsets from the likes of Oculus, HTC, Microsoft, etc. But there have also been cheaper interpretations by the likes of Lenovo and Samsung. Google is hoping to unify the mobile virtual reality industry with its platform they call Daydream VR. Reminding us of Android One, Daydream won’t just serve as the hub for mobile VR apps but there will also be “reference designs” for the headset and controller as well as the minimum spec list for “Daydream-ready” devices. Unfortunately, none of the current crop of smartphones will qualify. But Google already has the likes of Samsung, LG, HTC, Xiaomi, Huawei, ASUS, alcatel, and ZTE on board to release their own Daydream-ready devices.
These upcoming phones will need high performance, high calibrated sensors to allow for low-latency, high accuracy headtracking. One of the possible processors to be used is Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 820. They’ll also need high density, low-persistence displays. It isn’t just about high resolution screens but having an ultra-high refresh rate that will allow what’s called low-persistence, which is meant to reduce motion blur when you move your head. These phones need to be Android N, too as core VR features will be built into this version of Android, including notifications and calls being handled within the virtual reality space so as not to disrupt your experience with it. We should be hearing more about Daydream in the future. And if VR is something you want to explore, it’s best you wait a few months.
Messengers, messengers, and more messengers
Saying there’s an abundance of Google messaging apps is an understatement. But Google looked like they didn’t want to rebuild Hangouts. Instead, they’re branching out with two new apps: Allo and Duo.
Allo is what we’d call their WhatsApp competitor. It’s a telephone number-based messaging app that has things like predictive responses and being able to “shout” or “whisper” responses by sliding the Send arrow up or down to increase or reduce the size of the text. As mentioned earlier, it can also make use of Google Assistant so you can use the app to ask questions or have it perform tasks for you.
In terms of security and privacy, Allo will offer things like incognito mode (yes, like the one in Chrome), discrete notifications, end-to-end encryption, being able to set time limits for your messages, as well as completely remove them when you’re done.
On the video chat side, there’s Duo. One of its key features is getting a live video preview of the person calling you before you even answer the call.