What to Expect at This Year’s Google I/O

Google Campus

Google Campus

Google will host its annual I/O developers conference from May 17-19 in Mountain View, California.

The search-engine giant hasn’t been shy about using I/O to promote its upcoming projects and biggest initiatives. Who in the tech community could forget the 2012 edition in San Francisco, for example, when the Google Glass unveiling featured skydivers and bike-riders streaming their points-of-view in real time?

This year’s show may not feature death-defying stunts, but it should provide plenty of red meat for tech pros. It’s a near certainty that Google will use the I/O spotlight to show off more details about Android O, the next iteration of its long-running mobile operating system. (Google usually names each version of Android after a dessert; it’s not much of a leap to assume that the latest will eventually earn the “Oreo” moniker.)

Google released a developer preview of Android O in March, seeking feedback. Based on that early glimpse, we know about some new features, including Notification Channels (a unified system to help users manage notifications), Picture-in-Picture (multi-windows for content), and Adaptive Icons (which molds icons into different shapes on different device models). While that’s all great, it’s not hard to imagine Google reserving some of its flashier features for I/O, when a huge audience will tune in.

Microsoft and Facebook used their recent developer conferences to highlight their respective advances in artificial intelligence (A.I.). You can trust that Google will do something similar at I/O, perhaps by showing off how Google Assistant has gotten “smarter.” Android O and its various permutations, including Android Wear, may also have boosted A.I. functionality, or at least an improved ability to respond to spoken queries.

Speaking of Android Wear, Google may take the opportunity to demonstrate any advances in wearables, including new models of smartwatches running its software. Although the Apple Watch has managed to seize a healthy share of the smartwatch market over the last year, Google is still very much in that game.

Google may also show off new features for the Internet of Things (IoT) and the Connected Home. Although the company paid billions of dollars to acquire smart-device manufacturer Nest in 2014, it has yet to aggressively push a portfolio of Nest-branded products. Rather, it seems to have devoted the bulk of its recent efforts to Google Home, a standalone speaker that can respond to spoken queries. This year’s I/O may see the unveiling of a new and improved version of Home; the big question is whether it will feature a screen, which would make it a direct competitor to the new Amazon Echo Show, another digital-assistant device.

And who could forget virtual reality (VR)? With other companies issuing VR hardware and software on a regular basis, Google may respond by announcing updates to Daydream, a headset that uses an inserted Android phone as a VR screen. However, it’s just as likely that Google will withhold VR updates (as well as a new edition of its Pixel smartphone, a flagship device designed for VR functionality) for a separate event later in 2017.

Whatever Google chooses to announce, developers will surely have a lot of opportunities to learn about the company’s future products and plans. Google’s rivals will also pay close attention to I/O, as it will offer many indications of how Google intends to compete with them over the next several months.

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