Though Google I/O is mostly a developer conference, the kickoff keynote is the company’s most important chance to showcase new customer services and goods each year. Google I/O will return in 2021 after a one-year hiatus. Here’s a sneak peek of what the organisation is expected to show off next Tuesday.
Sundar Pichai, the CEO of Alphabet/Google, informed us last month that we should anticipate “significant product launches and announcements” at I/O 2021. It’s been two years since Google hosted a big one, with the Android and Cloud teams hosting more oriented ones in 2020.
The two-hour keynote allows for a variety of items and concepts from around the organisation to be announced side by side and profit from being united within a single theme. This year’s major event summary is simply Google’s mission statement:
Listen in to see how we’re moving on with our quest to organise the world’s knowledge to making it widely available and usable.
Android version 12
Android is at the forefront of our Google I/O 2021 overview. After years of iterative UI refinements and continuous feature additions, the latest release this year is generally anticipated to introduce a major visual update to the smartphone OS. The different pieces of Android can blend together easier and feel more unified with this latest design. Meanwhile, redesigns help to maintain stuff current (and futuristic), while Google has a chance to simplify and improve existing ideas. As a result, we don’t foresee Android 12 to add several new features.
Design of Materials
The makeover could be accompanied by a new version of the Material Design vocabulary for first- and third-party apps to follow to match the scheme. It’s critical to achieve rapid acceptance in order for the OS and applications to feel unified.
Material Design debuted at Google I/O 2014, with “cards” as the main metaphor and a sense of context that shifted with precise animations. Four years later, Material Theme was introduced to offer additional support for theming (through colours, typography, and other means) so that developers can further differentiate their games. Material’s next steps can be revealed next week. Early warning signs include:
- Google Discover is getting a makeover for Android 12 that removes cards and details.
- DP3: The Settings menu has been redesigned by accident, with a new bounce animation.
- Widgets have been redesigned in DP3 with a modern menu, suggestions, and forced rounded corners.
- Consider what ‘Material NEXT’ might mean for Google’s Android applications.
- Redesign of Android 12
Google Assistant was first introduced at Google I/O 2016, and there have been big updates every year since. With no developer conference in 2020, the smart assistant received a slew of upgrades over the span of a year, including a new light bar phone UI, improved settings, and a Snapshot feed, as well as a strong emphasis on voice control of Android applications. Driving Mode has only been available for a few months, although Ambient Mode is only available on a few third-party computers.
The Routines development mechanism was revamped, Home & Away was implemented, and Scheduled actions were applied to the smart home. There was also an emphasis on family-friendly functionality such as a Bell routine, extended Broadcast, and Family Notes, as well as a complete redesign of the Smart Display UI.
After a flurry of updates, there hasn’t been a big upgrade to the key Assistant. Last week, Google revealed that Assistant is now using BERT for better meaning learning. The production, which would have made for an excellent on-stage demonstration, was curiously not announced at Google I/O 2021. This can potentially pave the way for much bigger announcements.
Google Assistant Memory One is a recent Google Assistant that will be used on Android devices other than the Pixel. Google touted on-device speech recognition as providing for a revolutionary way to use the phone using just your voice when it was first revealed two years ago. Given the NGA’s lack of integration with other applications, this vision hasn’t taken flight.
It helps you to move into applications faster — at most — but people aren’t necessarily giving up taps in favour of pure voice engagement. This might improve with wider distribution — if not completely new, non-smartphone form factors — but it’s odd that such a technological feat is yet to be publicly released.
Meanwhile, Google has been working on an Assistant “Memory” function that boosts bookmarking and reminders for several months. I/O will be a high-profile launch that will increase popularity and recognition.
Those major announcements are normally made via Google Duplex. Duplex, a Google Assistant extension for making restaurant and salon reservations, was revealed at Google I/O 2018. A year later, Duplex on the network was revealed, extending the concept of helping machines perform time-consuming, multi-step activities including buying movie tickets on your behalf.
Google has improved the technologies for checking office hours and no-contact delivery availability during the past year. It’s just a matter of time before we get an update on this attempt to provide “truly natural-feeling conversations with robots.”
Duplex-level launches are hallmarks of Google I/O, demonstrating the company’s leadership in AI and machine learning. There is typically one that makes it to the mainstream of each meeting.
Google Lens + AR
If Assistant represents Google’s current, Lens represents the company’s potential. At I/O, Google has unveiled a visual search app. It was revamped in 2020 to appear like the Google Camera app, including a modern filter/capability for Places and Homework, as well as a shortcut to “copy to machine.” It’s much more readily available on Android now, thanks to Google.
More Lens capabilities are set to arrive next week, but despite being one of Google’s most consumer-facing augmented reality services, it does not seem to be commonly used. Recognizing items without needing to scan is convenient, and being able to copy text using OCR is also convenient and time-saving.
Many people, on the other hand, don’t think about use or hear about Lens since the handset form factor isn’t camera-first relative to what will arrive in the future. Maybe Lens could get a breakthrough feature on mobile in the future, but it will be ideal if Google might find one earlier rather than later to solidify its spot in AR before others about to announce hardware seize the lead.
The other common option is Live View in Maps, but Google already detailed indoor navigation (airports, transit stations, and malls) last month.
What we won’t see at I/O is any mention of Google’s augmented reality app for glasses. So far, there’s no sign that ARCore is able to spread outside mobile. More technologies and features for developers to incorporate virtual reality environments into smartphone apps are expected to emerge. However, a shape factor surprise will be really welcome.
Wear OS at Google I/O 2021
This month began with the unexpected launch of Gboard for Wear OS. It’s the first big product to be released on Google’s wearable platform in a long time. More was teased in the announcement, which comes as Google pushes third-party developers to embrace Tiles. While all recent functionality additions have been rendered beyond the underlying Android edition, Google teased Android 11 for Wear OS last fall, and we’re due for an update on that effort. In the end, through all of the potential tech announcements, Wear OS’s future (and success) hinges on getting competitive hardware.
Google produced it.
The Pixel Buds A-Series are Google’s next wireless headphones, as we already remember. A launch is inevitable, based on the amount of leaks, and Google I/O 2021 is the most possible launch date. However, one app introduction is unlikely to be sufficient to fill the market, so we anticipate at least a few tech announcements.
Stadia, for example, will actually be available on Chromecast via Google TV in the first half of 2021. We’re also hoping that the Nest Audio dongle would enable us to use the Nest Audio as TV speakers. It’s also possible that the Google TV phone software would get a virtual remote control at this time.
Google has hinted at a new Nest Cam line for 2021, but the annual Made by Google case in the fall is a better bet. Similarly, Google stated that the Pixel 5a 5G will be released in the same period as the 4a last year. We’re already a long way from August, but it wouldn’t make sense for Google to launch it now and then ship it three months later. The Pixel 4a 5G’s revenues in the United States and Japan will suffer as a result.
Google Podcasts is one product that helps to “organise the world’s knowledge and render it freely available.” The business introduced podcasts to Search at I/O 2019. Since then, the Android, iOS, and web clients have all received patches, but amid the teasing, the product is yet to see a major upgrade as the market heats up.
Google released an Android 12 Developer Preview for TV earlier this year, but has yet to elaborate about what the latest OS adds to the form factor. I/O will be an excellent time for them to launch innovative products, traction, and see what new users might benefit from.
Google announced in March that Nearby Share will be eligible for Chromebooks in the “coming months.” Bringing Android file transfer to Chrome for Mac, Windows, and Linux will be a huge step forward that will help hundreds of millions, if not billions, of people.