Today was the first day of Google I/O, the company’s annual developer conference. The event started with the keynote, where Google went across the board explaining how the company’s investment in machine learning and AI was affecting every single one of its products. Google’s new motto is moving from being a mobile-first company to an AI-first company—and it definitely shows in how it’s being implemented across its many platforms.
There will still be more to learn as the conference continue, especially with the next version of Android, but here are some of the biggest announcements thus far:
1. Google Lens
A number of tech companies have been working toward this for a while now, but Google is finally putting it into the hands of users. Google CEO Sundar Pichai announced the new technology that allows the camera on the phone to recognize things in the real world and allow you to act on them.
Pichai showed off use cases such as recognizing a restaurant and giving you information on it in augmented reality, as well as a taking a photo of a complicated WiFi password and automatically signing you into the network.
2. Google Assistant available on iPhone
Google Assistant has been a big part of what Google is doing ever since it was announced last year at Google I/O—and it’s never been shy about bringing its services to other devices outside of the Google ecosystem. It was only a matter of time, but I was pleased to hear that the Google Assistant would be coming to the iPhone.
Google also announced a number of new languages that the assistant supports, as well as the Google Assistant SDK for third party developers.
3. New Google Home features
Google’s Amazon Echo-competitor launched last year—and is getting a software update this year. The best feature is Hands-Free Calling, which allows users to make calls in your house to both landline and cell phone numbers. The cool thing is that because the Google Home now supports multiple users, Google will recognize your voice and use your specific number and contacts to make the call.
There were a couple of other neat features such as Proactive Notifications, where the Google Home would blink to let you know you’ve got something like a traffic notification or an upcoming event in your calendar. Lastly, we’re also getting support from the free version of Spotify so that you don’t need a Premium account to play music right off the Google Home.
4. Google Photos update
The biggest update to Google Photos today was in sharing. We’ll now have some helpful ways to share photos and videos with other people in two primary features: Suggested Sharing and Shared Libraries. Suggested Sharing essentially recommends other people to share photos you just took with, including to iPhone users who have Google Photos. Shared Libraries, meanwhile, lets you create a folder of photos that are automatically shared between users. Throughout the demonstration, Google made it a point to share how machine learning and AI was sorting photos and giving recommendations.
Lastly, Google also announced Google Photobooks, which is a simple little way to get your photos printed. All you have to do is select the photos you want, choose hardcover or softcover, and you’ll have a physical photo album coming in the mail. It’s kind of a bizarre thing for Google to get involved in (and the photo albums look awfully generic), but hopefully Google will continue to build on what they’ve started here.
5. Standalone VR headsets
Google announced its VR platform Daydream last year at I/O, including the Daydream headset and remote that come with it. Now we’re getting some new kinds of VR headsets that have a pretty interesting concept: they’re completely standalone.
Instead of depending on your smartphone or a high-powered PC, these new standalone VR headsets come with everything built-in, made only for experiencing virtual reality. We don’t know how much these will cost or how exactly they’ll work, but Google announced support from Lenovo and HTC, which is pretty promising.