Google IO 2016

In one week from now, Google I/O 2016 will have come and gone, and we could very well be revelling in new services, features and if we’re lucky, new products. Considering we are only a few days away, there have been very few leaks out of Mountain View, hopefully, that isn’t a reflection on the quality of what Google has in store for us all.

Our Editor in Chief Dan Tyson will be on the ground again this year, bringing us both hands on coverage as well as seeking out the Australian perspective on everything announced at I/O.

No I/O would be complete without just a little speculation on what is coming, however, before we get to that it is important to remember that at its heart I/O is a developer conference, it is intended to let Google inform developers of how to utilise Google’s service new and existing, and let developers get up close and personal with Googlers and their knowledge.

Now let’s get down to guessing speculating on what Google may have in store.

Screen Shot 2016-05-14 at 9.09.05 pm
According to some sources and the Google developer console Android VR is coming, soon. We can break down Android VR into two categories, the platform and the hardware.

By now it’s safe to assume that Google is woking on the next logical extension to the current Google Cardboard platform. One that would be both more powerful and perhaps more independent. If the rumours over the past months are to be believed then we will see a VR platform based on a variant of Android, or more likely we’ll see Virtual Reality modules built into Android N.

While Google Cardboard Plastic, looked to be a good hardware initiative we think that perhaps consumers were hoping for a little more from Googles next VR hardware.

We have three competing theories around at the moment, one is that Google will release a completely standalone VR headset that can function without another device. The second is that we will be seeing something akin to LG’s VR headset that tethers to your phones for the computing power but brings its own screen, making it lighter that something like the Gear VR. The last theory is that Google will release a Gear VR style headset that works with more devices but is a little more premium that Cardboard.

Project Tango
Project Tango
This one is a no-brainer, it is outwardly mentioned in session titles, and we know Lenovo has been working on a Tango phone. Tango sits in an interesting space, it’s not VR, it’s kind of AR, just through a device rather than a headset. The potential for spatially aware devices is intriguing, for mapping, the enterprise and especially for accessibility.

However as a nascent platform, there is a lot of road between what we last saw of Tango and any kind of meaningful mass use. We will definitely be following Tango with interest next week.

Voice interaction
‘OK Google’ has come a long way since it’s release with an ever growing list of features and voice functionality. Voice as a platform is something that is looking like becoming a growth area, if not a new type of platform in it’s own right. Just look at the success of the Amazon Echo in the US or the emergence of Voice Assistants like VIV or Hound to see the potential of voice-as-a-platform.

Google has proven it’s abilities at machine learning/ Artificial Intelligence in numerous ways, just look at Google Photo’s image detection, Google even open sourcing it’s AI platform TensorFlow in the past year. With the rise of the voice assistant platform it would not be surprising to see them announce initiatives in this area, some potential candidates include:

  • Expanding OK Google to include more ‘assistant’ features and contextual awareness
  • Expanding their understanding of natural language and complex/ compound questions
  • Opening voice interaction up to more developers
  • Deeper linking of voice control into Android apps (Android N has some a feature that could make this easier)

Whichever way you look at it Voice interaction is something both Google and the Tech sector are interested in we’re expecting something in this area.

Chat and bots

Google’s messaging platform is somewhat of a mess, I say this as a die-hard daily Hangouts user. However, as a daily user of Telegram as well I know how good it could be, and Hangouts is not it, in fact if Telegram ever brought SMS and MMS into the platform I’d jump ship. Is Hangouts dead? Will Google launch yet another messaging system? We’ll tell you in 7 days!

It is possible that Google may not focus on the “Chat Bot” revolution that Messanger, Telegram and others are chasing, and instead, double down on Voice as the access platform to an AI bot network? After all the early signs are that routine interaction with chat bots for anything other than a comedic distraction gets old fast.

However, that’s not to say that a future successful Bot Platform will have access via both Voice and Chat, or that Voice will not be what users want to use. Can Google really concede the messaging space without out least trying to “get it right” again? One thing is for certain if Google wants to catch the last few people before they migrate to other platforms for messaging they had better make their move soon.

Android N
Android N v2
The Android N developer preview is currently in its second version, with a third expected to ship anytime soon, perhaps even going live during the keynote? While Android N may not be a highlight of the Keynote, we expect them to have at least one or two Android treats to offer. There’s even a session almost straight after the keynote called ‘What’s new in Android’. Many of the following sessions will be focused purely on Android development which will likely showcase Android N features.

As one of Google’s biggest platforms, it should be expected that Android will get a lot of love and attention at next week’s developer conference.

Android apps on ChromeOS
Google Play Chrome OSHaving Android apps on ChromsOS has been a long time coming. From rumours to the ARC Welder project it seems that Android apps becoming available on Chrome OS are almost inevitable at this stage. If recent rumours are anything to go by that time may be right around the corner.

Having the entire Google Play Store become available on Chrome would not only be a benefit for Chome OS, but also for Windows and Mac users running the Chrome Browser. Not to mention a benefit to Android tablets, as developers may put more effort into both larger form factor devices as well as resizable windows, which is a feature widely rumoured to be coming in a future Android N release.

Android Wear
Android Wear - Title
It’s been a long time since we’ve seen anything approaching an update to Android Wear. We finally got speaker support, apparently that’s a good thing, then we got LTE support and even a brief release of a device that would utilise it.

So what’s next for Android Wear? If you look at Qualcomm’s most recent Android Wear specific chip the Snapdragon Wear 2100 the first chip designed for Wear devices, you will notice that NFC support is included in that chip.

We’re postulating that Qualcomm has added that to the chipset because NFC is coming to Android Wear. We admit, this is mostly based on the fact we want to see NFC included in Wear. This is so that when Android Pay comes to Australia, sometime in the next 6 weeks if they stay on schedule, we can start paying for things with our next Android Wear device.

Android Auto
Unfortunately, Android Auto has not grown as quickly as some of us would have hoped, then again I haven’t changed my car, and am not planning too (that’s what you tell my wife if she asks), nor can I change the stereo in my car, and I suggest many of you are in the same boat. So it’s not surprising that for the majority of us Android Auto hasn’t touched our lives.

There are some sessions on Android Auto so we may see some new feature or interaction models, such as the deeper voice links discussed above. Android Auto feels like a long game for Google. The Car industry has traditionally moved slowly with very long development cycles. As such we have to just hope Google sticks with it long enough for many of us to finally experience it.

Google Play
After a family sharing plan was announced for Google Play Music last year, we’d love to see this extended to other areas of Google Play. Ellie Powers has gotten up on stage for the last couple of years to give us an idea of what to expect from Google Play and seeing Google Play Family Sharing extended to Movies, Books or even some apps would be Awesome – and there’s been some underlying code in app updates over the last 6 months or so to suggest that at least some of that is possible.

Beyond the consumer facing stuff, of course we’ll see more tools for developers, but what those tools will be, we can’t wait to see.

Self-driving cars
Self-Driving Car
While the speculation is we will see Google showcase where they are up to with self-driving cars, and perhaps even have some for people to ride around in, I’m going out on a limb and calling it, Google is not announcing the first consumer self-driving car. They may discuss their endeavours, especially as it pertains to machine learning and what they have learnt from that. However until they are much further along, and until the State, national and even international laws catch up with Google self-driving cars will remain on of Googles very exciting moonshots.

Rick Osterloh – Hardware division!

Hardware, hardware, hardware. The newly installed manager of what is essentially all Google’s hardware efforts, including their IoT efforts with Brillo, Weave and OnHub (Could these be Chirp?), as well as Nexus (Pixel too), Chromecast, ATAP and even Google Glass (Project Aura).

As a newly installed manager, we probably won’t see anything from Rick’s efforts immediately, but we will probably get a glimpse of what’s been happening. So. What do we think we’ll see?

Nexus Logo
Too early for phones, but a tablet maybe? Sorry, but it’s too early for phones. Over the last 4 years, the Nexus phones have been announced around the end of September/beginning to mid-October and become available in November through the Google Store. There’s no reason for this trend not to continue.

But, the original Nexus 7 was announced at Google I/O and the second was announced at an event soon after and wouldn’t a new smaller, lower cost (than the Pixel C) Nexus tablet go well? Especially with all the tablet focus Google has (split window etc.).

Android TV
Just putting this out there, but how about a new Nexus Player? Something with specs more along the line of the Shield TV console with built-in ethernet, higher end processor and full size USB? Maybe this is just wishful thinking, but the original Nexus Player is a little long in the tooth and an updated box may be a better option. Who knows, but there are sessions on Android TV in the list, so maybe.

Project Aura
Google has been working with Google Glass at Work partners for at least a year now on a second generation of Glass hardware with a collapsible frame. The hardware has gotten better reportedly so hopefully Google is ready to bring an improved Google Glass back into the mainstream.

onhub blog
Leading on from, and directly tied to, Voice interaction are the current rumours around Chirp. Chirp is the code-named for Google’s voice assistant hardware, ala Amazon Echo. While a hardware announcement may not be on the cards for next week, for the Chirp to both succeed and compete with Echo it will need a vibrant ecosystem of developers plugging services into its platform.

A Google developer conference would be the best time to showcase such a voice platform, as discussed above. So while we may not see Chirp itself it’s likely we will see some manner of voice interaction demos.
Brillo, Weave and the home
At last year’s I/O Google introduced it’s latest attempt at entering the home automation market, Brillo and Weave. Together they combine to provide both a development platform – Brillo – based on a “scrubbed down” version of Android, and a communication protocol – Weave.

Since then Google has hosted their first Ubiquity developer conference focused on the Internet of things. Not much else has publicly happened since then. Hopefully, somewhere at IO, we will the first wave of products and services built on this platform .

With the ongoing security issues for the IoT not to mention interoperability, it would be nice to see some standards start to emerge. Unfortunately, with Google, Apple, Samsung as well as many others all playing in this space I don’t think we will reach a utopian future of interoperability in this space, it feels like messaging all over again.

Last year we were surprised by a presentation from Googles Advanced Technology and Projects (ATAP) group. They took to the stage and announced a cavalcade of exciting research projects, including:

It would be a little unfair to complain that none of these projects have actually materialised into products yet, this is an advanced research group. However, we may get an update on the progress of some of these or perhaps even another presentation by the group showcasing what’s new in their labs!

That’s all the guesses speculation we have for this year’s Google IO. To be honest with a company as diverse as Google presenting to a developer focused conference we’ll be happy if we get even one thing right. One thing is for sure, Google has rarely failed to impress, and with 3 full days of Keynotes, presentations, fireside chats, code labs and demonstrations there will undoubtedly be some cool and interesting things revealed.

What are  your Google IO 2016 predictions? Let us know in the comments and we will update the main article with anything that grabs our attention! 

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    Darren Ferguson

    Add a voice command so I can say “Call xxxxx on speaker”

    You can do this already.

    Darren Ferguson

    Why didn’t I know this was implemented already?
    Awesome – thanks

    Its tricky! I know one of my favorite things is just saying “play” to restart whatever it was that you were last listening too!


    Looking forward to seeing what Dan reports from the floor. Hope there are some concrete news about another Nexus tablet but definitely not expecting Google (Alphabet?) to launch one as the rumour mills has been a little quiet on that front.

    Phillip Molly Malone

    Would love to see a new Nexus 7 and/or a bigger Nexus tablet for multi-window support.

    Want NFC for Android Wear and left field hope: Nexus Wear Watch available world wide! My birthday this week and would love a replacement for my Moto 360 v1 watch