We are living at the time when progress is advancing with giant strides. Every year, innovations are more and more blurring the boundaries between commonness and science fiction. Not so long ago monoblock keypad phones were replaced with touchscreen smartphones, and what do we have now? House controlled from a phone, drones delivering parcels, a sensor that simulates the sensation of touch is being developed for cybernetic prostheses, virtual reality applications, a robot winning a literary contest… It’s hard to believe that only 4 years ago this didn’t exist. However, this is exactly how our world looks like now and the progress is opening up new exciting opportunities for business.
The flow of innovation is escalating with every coming year and 2016 isn’t an exception. Google’s annual developer conference I/O 2016 showed a lot of cool things which will provide new prospects for IT business development. Some of the Google I/O announcements unveiled the future of the consumer technologies and business models, others were designed specifically for Android developers. Let’s take a closer look.
A new version of Android OS was announced. It initially got a temporary name Android N and then was named Android Nougat. Its main features are:
- SafetyNET, a security system that cracks down compromised apk files;
- Split-screen mode that allows you to run several apps side by side;
- The multitasking menu shows only few recently used apps;
- More settings to control notifications;
- An extended set of emojis;
- Virtual reality support.
The list of upgrades is impressive and promising. Such things as improved operation speed and security system will just strengthen Android’s positions. However, split-screen and virtual reality pave the way not only for new ideas but also for new directions of mobile application development in general.
In the new assistant, Google has put the emphasis on humaneness of this AI service, its ability to communicate and closely interact with the user.
A new feature — context search — was demonstrated at the conference. A user makes the first search request and the assistant associates all the follow-up requests with the first one. As an example, the assistant was asked “who directed The Revenant” and it returned the name of Alejandro Iñárritu in response. Then, to the request “show me his awards”, the search engine showed Iñárritu’s awards.
If you search for video, the assistant will immediately open the desired video without any intermediary links. The assistant can also understand more complicated requests. For example, “what movies are playing tonight/and if with kids/what are the ratings?” — at the conference, it showed the ability to determine context and returned relevant answers to all follow-up questions. Moreover, answers imitated the speech of a real person:
— We want to go the movie theatre with kids.
— OK. Here are some family friendly options which are on right now: “The Jungle Book” and “Zootopia”. Would you like 4 tickets to any of these?
— Sure, let’s do Jungle Book.
In the same way, in answer to the request “let’s have dinner tonight”, the assistant can immediately book you a table in a restaurant. This opens up the possibilities to integrate assistant’s functions into various services, restaurants, movie theatres, museums, exhibitions, concert and travel agencies, so that it could use them to search for events, reserve seats, etc.
Allo is a new messaging app built into Google assistant. At the conference, some interesting abilities of Allo were presented. These features stress the emotional intensity of communication and safety.
The “Whisper/Shout” mode helps to express emotions in text messages better by shifting the size of font depending on how expressive the speaker is. There appeared a possibility to send photos with instant captions on them, moreover, the “Whisper/Shout” mode will work here as well.
If you want you can enable the support of Google assistant. It will analyze your manner of speaking and based on this data it will serve up some suggested replies. Don’t you agree that it’s a useful feature when you are having a quick chat and have to give an answer within a few seconds?
The assistant can recognize photos with about 90% accuracy and suggest prewritten replies to them. If, for example, you are sent a photo of a latte with an invitation to have a coffee, the assistant will immediately understand what it’s all about, find the nearest coffee shops and even book a table for you. You will also be able to ask it about more complex things related to your personality — whether the long-expected movie has come out, what the currency rate is at the moment or which car is the most popular in Texas in the summer of 2016.
There is a possibility to communicate and play a simple emoji game with the Google bot in a separate chat. The creators immediately dropped a hint to third-party developers that there is a possibility to create similar games.
The “Incognito” mode is also worth mentioning: when you delete the conversation from the chat, it will automatically disappear from Google’s servers and no one will ever know about all your secrets.
This new video calling app has also introduced some innovations. The most striking of them is a Knock Knock feature, which provides a video preview of the caller before you pick up. Now, when you are receiving a call you can see a live video of the person calling you. Depending on what you see — your business partners in the conference room or your friend in a gown after a sleepless night — you can evaluate the importance of the call and prepare yourself for the conversation.
VR: Android Daydream
The virtual reality technology is developing faster and faster, people are more and more interested in such entertainments. If last year they only teased us with experimental Oculus Rift, today Sony and Microsoft offer their own VR headsets as well as big projects for this platform. Google is in step with the trend and at I/O they demonstrated their own mobile virtual reality platform for creating VR apps — Android Daydream for Android N.
According to the creators, such VR applications won’t be too demanding in terms of hardware and will run on almost any device. A separate Google Play store and a controller compatible with Google Cardboard will be created for VR apps. Streaming services like Netflix and HBO Now will also move to virtual reality. So, after its release planned for this fall, users will get access to more than just VR games.
The new VR platform is already available to mobile app developers and you can start creating virtual reality apps as early as today. Taking into consideration the demand and the interest of the audience in VR, it’s better to hurry with their development.
Among other things, Google presented:
- Google Home, a home assistant that uses Google’s Assistant technology. It responds to all possible user requests, can book tickets or a table in a restaurant and control the smart home system. In addition, this device looks like a flower vase with built-in microphones, dynamics, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth;
- Mobile Chrome, which will make the work on the Internet 4 times faster, supports notifications in the browser and allows you to access a site in offline mode;
- Android Instant Apps, a new component of the Android development ecosystem, which will allow users to run apps from a link without the necessity to actually download them;
- Android Wear 2.0, the second version of Google’s wearables software platform is supposed to make the watch more autonomous from the smartphone.
Well, IT technologies have overcome yet another stage of evolution and demonstrated smooth development of the ideas from the previous years. However, their potential promises to give a start to truly revolutionary changes. Intelligent assistant-companions, almost like J.A.R.V.I.S. from “Iron Man” movie, and virtual reality experiences which will soon become as available as a touchscreen display, are able to greatly change the view on mobile technologies. In the coming years VR projects and all kinds of add-ons to the assistant will become quite popular in the area of mobile app development. As for the new messengers, updates of operating system, standalone watches, using apps without fully downloading them and other reveals featured at Google I/O 2016 will make familiar and convenient things even more familiar and convenient.