IO roundup – the best of Google’s developer conference.
IO is Google’s annual developers conference, held in Mountain View, California. It doesn’t get quite the same volume of press as their big hardware releases, but IO is where the software magic happens.
This year specifically looked at the new incarnation of the android mobile operating system, called ‘P’ as well as updates to Google Assistant and Android Wear.
The main news at IO surrounding the new OS was the release of the beta version of P. The operating system breaks with convention, making using your phone as efficient as possible in order that you use it less, not more. The navigation bar and notification bar are in for an overhaul, with advanced customisation options which currently are quite limited and require specific apps to alter.
Also included, and by far the biggest update, is the dashboard. The dashboard will be able to tell you how long you’ve been using different functions on your device like messaging and streaming content. Native apps like YouTube may even recommend a screen break if used for too long. Alongside that, a new wind-down mode will turn on do-not-disturb and change your screen to grayscale automatically at a selected time in order to help you improve your sleep.
Also announced was Android Jetpack, not to be confused with the popular WordPress plugin. Android Jetpack is a set of tools and libraries for developers to build better, more integrated Android apps.
The Google Assistant demo hit the headlines at IO. The AI personal assistant was able to automatically call and book appointments. The on-stage demo the of the new calling technology, dubbed ‘Duplex’ call a hair salon and book an appointment. It was able to consider various time options, run these against the user’s calendar and find the most convenient option.
The assistant is getting a visual overhaul as well, being more akin to Google Now, with a dedicated screen showing the conversation history. As well as the ability to hold a more flowing conversation, meaning the user no longer needs to say ‘Okay Google’ before each command.
Also announced was increased integration of the Assistant between devices ahead of the release of Google’s smart screens, meaning commands given to a Google Home device would show up on, and be able to interact with, your phone. There are also 6 new voices (with one that sounds like singer John Legend) and support for up to 30 languages.
Android Wear 3.0 – now Wear OS
Now rebranded to prepare for ‘the diverse future of smartwatches’, Wear OS is the latest incarnation of the android operating system for smartwatches. Already rolling out to most devices, WearOS is coming with a host of updates.
First and foremost is better integration with Google Assistant, which has clearly become a big focus for the tech giant as competing tech like Amazon’s Alexa becomes increasingly popular. This better integration also means that you’ll be able to access and control other smart home products from your wrist.
There will also be enhancements to health features of wear OS, including a feature allowing waterproof smartwatches to be used to track swimming, and making it easier to use a music app at the same time as Google Fit.