What we learned from Google’s I/O 2017 keynote

Google's I/O 2017 keynote brings us fresh info about Android O, Google Assistant and more

Google I/O 2017 keynote just ended, leaving us with a ton of information to digest. And in case you missed the event for whatever reason, here are the most important topics touched on during the presentation:

Google Lens

One of the first new features introduced today is Google Lens – a tool that uses artificial intelligence (AI) in order to allow smartphone cameras understand what they are seeing.

For example, pointing the camera at a flower will provide users with its exact name via the Google Assistant. Alternatively, Google Lens in Photos will be able to identify buildings and locations and even show ratings (in case of restaurants or hotels). The new vision-based computing capability will first become available on Android, Photos and Assistant.

Google Assistant

Not so long ago the Google Assistant was exclusive to a handful of Google devices. But not anymore, as Google made the Assistant’s services available to the majority of Android phones with running Marshmallow or higher. Well during today’s event, the search giant said it’s expanding availability of the Assistant to iOS.

On top of that, it seems like the AI-driven virtual companion will finally allow users to manually enter queries via text, thus spearing us the grief of looking ridiculous in public.

The Google Assistant will also be able to recognize and respond in more languages including French, German, Portuguese, Brazilian and Japanese. Support for Italian, Spanish and Korean is coming towards the end of the year.

Another novelty is that Actions for Google will be expanded to iOS and Android. Actions – which allows users to interact with apps by speaking to the Google Assistant using a phrase like “OK Google, talk to…” – were thus far available on Google Home devices, but will soon work on your phone as well. Also of interest is that Google actions can now make payments via voice.

Google Home

Announced last year during the same keynote, the Google Home has gained a few nifty features. For starters, the voice-connected speaker now supports hands-free voice calling to any number in the US and Canada for free. And with the recently added multi-user support, the Google Home can distinguish between contact books based on the voice issuing the command.

Another interesting new feature to watch out for is Proactive Assistance. Google Home will be able to make smarter connections in order to share information proactively with you. If it sees you have an upcoming appointment, Google Home will light up to let you know you need to leave soon in order to be there on time.

Google Home does not have a screen, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get visual responses to your queries, as users will soon be able to cast to a nearby Chromecast device.

Other changes on the way include Bluetooth support to allow Home owners to play audio from any device, as well as compatibility for Spotify, SoundCloud, Deezer and HBO Now.

What we learned about Google Home at Google I/O 2017

Google Photos

At Google I/O 2017 today, the company introduced Suggestive Sharing in Google Photos, a tool meant to improve sharing abilities within the app.

The goal is to bypass the tedious processes of manually selecting photographs and individual sharing them by allowing users to automatically share photos with assigned contacts, suggested by Google’s own advanced machine learning algorithms.

Another new feature arriving today in Google Photos is Shared Libraries. Once a user is granted permission to view a certain image category, that person will be able to receive future photographic updates right on their phone.

Android O

Like last year, Google did not announce after which sugary treat will this year’s Android version be called after. But it did tease some of its upcoming features.

We were told O focuses on two major themes – a fluid experience and vitals. The first one aims to provide a more seamless user experience. We were given the example of Picture-in-Picture which enables users to multitask and switch between apps seamlessly. The example given by Google is of a user watching a YouTube video, who by virtue of a simple tap on the home button can transfer the video into a small, always-on-top window which can be moved around freely.

Android O also aims to change how users experience notifications by introducing the so-called Notifications Dots. These are small badges that get automatically generated following the color gradient of the app’s icon. Users can either long press the app icon and view a small widget which shows them what the notification is all about or just pull down the notification shade.

It also seems that Google Chrome’s “autofill” feature will be ported to Android O. The tool can be employed to remember names, email, and addresses and automatically fill-in the blanks when it detects a registration screen.

Furthermore, Google talked about Smart Text Selection coming to Android O. Once again, deep machine learning algorithms will be employed to allow the system to figure out what a user is trying to select (based on Google’s own research most users try to copy-paste phone numbers, addresses or names). In Android O when a user tries to select an address or a name made up of two or more parts, the new tool will automatically highlight all of it – just double tap on it.

On top of teasing a few Android O upcoming feature, Google also talked about Android Vitals or security, stability, and battery life. Despite Android not having the reputation of a super secure OS, Google aims to change that with Android O by increasing applications security and malicious software monitoring. With this purpose in mind, Google introduced Google Play Protect, a tool which will scan your apps on a regular basis to ensure they are malware free.

What’s more, Android O is expected to add under-the-hood improvements for speedier booting time and application performance. Android O is also becoming stricter when it comes what resources apps use while running in the background. The end goal here is to extend battery life and cut down on overall memory usage.

Google also introduced the Play Console Dashboard, a new feature which will help developers better understand what’s causing battery drain, app instability or a slow UI. The tool displays statistics related to individual apps and displays the issues, as well as provide tips on how to solve the problem.

Android Go

Google didn’t talk about Android One during this keynote, but it doesn’t mean it has forgotten about entry-level handsets. The search giant actually unveiled a new initiative called Android Go, which aims to provide users of low-end handsets with a decent mobile experience.

Under Android Go, Android O will ship with optimizations for handsets featuring 1GB of RAM and less. As for the apps, they will come with new data saving options. We’re told YouTube will soon be offering a new YouTube Go version which will provide users with a series of screenshots, to help them decide whether they should watch it or not.

Lastly, a new version of the Play Store was announced, which highlights apps specially designed to conserve data and device resources. The first Go-powered devices are expected to start shipping from 2018 onwards.

VR

During the keynote, Google announced Daydream support is coming to a few new products including the Samsung Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8+ flagships later this year.

Google also mentioned an upcoming LG flagship will also receive Daydream treatment, and while no name was mentioned, we have to assume it was talking about the LG V30.

What was your favorite part of the keynote? Let us know down in the comments.