Google I/O 2016: An Invitation to Question and Rethink the World


Google I/O 2016 Google Home

Sundar Pichai and a handful of executives took to the stage at Google I/O 2016 in Mountain View, California, today to reveal what they’ve been working on — and how the 7,000 attendees might get involved — in his first mobile developer conference as CEO.

In one of the lighter moments of the presentation, the public was invited to submit names for Android N, the new version of Android. While Google’s Android versions in the past have been named for sweet treats, from Cupcake to Lollipop, it’s open—for the first time—to suggestions.

Its website is now taking names, while Google released the tongue-in-cheek video above to inspire names.

Google I/O 2016Beyond naming, the bigger picture story at I/O 2016, which continues through Friday, is how it’s using machine learning and artificial intelligence to power and meld search, visual and voice recognition into a seamless experience in a revolutionary way.

As Sundar Pichai puts it, “The real test is whether humans can achieve a lot more with the support of AI assisting them. Things previously thought to be impossible may in fact be possible.” Whether climate change, healthcare or education, Google’s message is that machine learning and AI have the potential to change—well—everything.

Witness Google Home, its answer to Amazon’s Echo, Echo with Alexa (reportedly coming to a tablet) and how the new Google Assistant AI bot is looking to be smarter and more knowing than Siri and Cortana. Google’s I/O16 reveal today puts pressure on Apple and Microsoft to innovate with their voice-recognition assistants.

Google Home voice recognition AI smart home

Google Home is a new wireless speaker that has voice controls like Amazon’s Echo but connects users to Google Now instead. Unlike Echo, it’s compatible with Chromecast and enables voice access to Google from your living room or phone. Available later this year, Google Home lets users ask Google “anything you want.”

Google Assistant, introduced as the next generation of search, is a mash-up of voice search and Google Now supporting “conversational understanding” to make search more natural and better support voice searches. “It’s not enough to give them links,” said Pichai. “We really need to help them get things done in the real world. This is why we’re evolving search to be more assistive.”

In a humanitarian use for its voice-controlled technology, Google’s new Voice Access Beta is a new Accessibility Accessibility Service for Android. It allows people who have difficulty manipulating a touch screen due to paralysis, tremor, temporary injury, or other reasons, control their devices by voice.

Google Allo is a new messaging app with Google Assistant built in, similar to Google’s new keyboard for iOS but as a messaging app. Allo lets users change text size, gives smart replies as Google’s mail app “Inbox” does and, thanks to machine learning, anticipate the user’s responses and generates suggestions and recognizes images people send. Available this summer on Android and Apple phones, users can look up restaurant options and book a table in-app, while accessing an array of emoji and stickers.

Google Duo is Google’s companion app for Allo that adds video calling with a feature that transcends FaceTime and Skype.

The mobile-first, mobile-only video calling app for Android and iOS lets users see the incoming video call feed before answering—a novel feature that may concern privacy watchdogs—and switches seamlessly between cellular and Wi-Fi connections, adjusting video and audio real-time based on when available bandwidth increases or decreases.

Android N, Google’s still-to-be-named version of Android, has a split screen and picture-in-picture to handle two apps at once. Android N has a new direct reply feature that lets users reply to messages directly from the notification. Its proposed emoji stickers include a new set of professional women to promote diversity.

Google Daydream is an optimized virtual reality platform that aims to standardize the mobile-based VR experience. The platform is included in upcoming Android N OS and Google has created a reference design for a headset for partner manufacturers and designs for a new controller with fewer buttons, a touchpad and tracking sensors for orientation. Samsung, HTC and Huawei will have smartphones with capabilities for all this in the fall.

Android Wear 2.0 is coming and includes enhanced fitness tracking and standalone watch apps that function independently from a phone.

See more of the I/O keynote below, and read more in Google’s blog posts here and here: