Everything IT professionals, IT managers, and businesses need to know about Google I/O 2016. Below you can find a summary of what was announced, along with a live blog of the event and our predictions prior to the event.
Google I/O 2016 live: Google I/O keynote live stream
Google I/O announcements: Daydream VR and Android Wear 2.0
Google stopped short of unveiling a new VR headset, as many had predicted, but one of the most eye-catching announcements was Daydream. Arriving this autumn, Daydream is billed as the VR platform for Android. Google is working with Android manufacturers to create devices that can run a high-end VR experience.
There are also plans to build on the success of Cardboard with reference designs for a Daydream headset, alongside a controller similar to that of the HTC Vive.
Considering the reach Google has with its Android platform, the announcements are likely to give VR adoption a significant boost in the next year.
Forrester analyst J.P. Gownder commented: "From what we saw in the brief I/O presentation, our initial belief is that Daydream will play a critical role in driving forward the VR ecosystem for both enterprises and consumers.”
This is partly because Cardboard doesn’t have a great experience, while mobile-centric hardware has more “mass-market reach”.
While this is good news for consumers, it also offers a new channel of interaction for businesses.
“Broader offerings from more handset makers will offer both consumers and enterprises opportunities to leverage VR,” Gownder said.
“Six Flags is deploying Gear VR devices on its rollercoasters, and real estate agents are experimenting with showing properties on the smartphone-based VR platform."
You can find out more about Daydream on PC Advisor: Google Android Daydream VR release date and features
Google also updated its Android Wear platform, with a developer preview of Wear 2.0 - the most significant upgrade since launching two years ago. New features include the ability to access the internet directly from Android Wear, meaning that wearable devices will function even if your phone is not nearby, or out of battery, as well as a new UI and input methods.
Google I/O announcements: Firebase
One announcement that will certainly be welcomed by developers is the update Firebase. Acquired by Google in 2014, Firebase makes it easier to build app and was expanded significantly at yesterday’s conference, turning it into a unified app platform with support for iOS, Android and web development.
New features include an integrated analytics tool – which Google billed as 'Google Analytics for developers' - providing data on how applications are being used by an audience or to view advertising performance.
There is also a new notification system based on Google Cloud Messaging, and two new offerings to improve app quality – Test Lab and Cash Reporting.
Google I/O announcements: Machine learning - Tensor Processing Units
One of the most interesting announcements was the unveiling of its Tensor Processing Units. TPUs are specialised chips tailored to machine learning applications – and specifically for its TensorFlow framework.
CEO Sundar Pichai made some intriguing claims, with TPUs apparently achieving ten times better performance than comparative hardware such as GPUs and FGPAs for machine learning purposes. This is equivalent to fast-forwarding three generations of Moore’s Law, he said.
Google has been developing the custom ASICs [application specific integrated circuit] in secret for a number of years, with TPUs running in their datacentres for more than a year, powering applications such as RankBrain. The chips were even used by AlphaGo in the matches against world champion Lee Sedol.
Google is clearly betting big on machine learning. As well as TensorFlow, which was open sourced last year to encourage community development, it has been opening up some of the APIs used in its own products. Pichai stated that these APIs are "one of the biggest differentiators for Google Cloud Platform" as it aims to draw developers away from AWS and towards its own services.
Google I/O keynote live blog
Virtual reality and machine learning are expected to be the main focus of this year’s event, with announcements around driverless cars and potentially robotics or drones.
If you are attending the event, you can see a full list of Google I/O technical sessions here.
Otherwise you will be able to watch a Google I/O live feed, and follow a live blog of CEO Sundar Pichai's keynote right here on this page on ComputerworldUK. We will be explaining everything you need to know about the events at Google I/O.
Google I/O 2016 live: What will be announced at Google I/O 2016?
Google I/O 2016: VR and AR
Google started off small with its Cardboard virtual reality headset, announced at I/O in 2014, but now has its own dedicated VR division.
Speculation that Google could launch a proper VR headset next week, if not two devices.
VR is still in its infancy, but, among other applications, it provides another potential channel to interact with customers. Firms such as Thomas Cook and BMW have been piloting the use of VR as part of the sales process.
Others such as Facebook, HTC and Sony have been leading in this area so far, but you wouldn't bet against Google have a major role to play in popularising VR too.
A presentation titled 'VR at Google: What we have built, what we have learned and where we are headed' – led by Google's VP for virtual reality, Clay Bavor - will be available as a live stream from the Google I/O site on 19 May at 9am (5pm GMT).
Augmented reality is also likely to be on the agenda. Project Tango is Google's main offering here, providing mobile devices with 3D-sensing capabilities. There have been few hardware platforms supporting it so far – with Intel announce a smartphone developer kit earlier this year and Lenovo unveiling a Project Tango enabled device at MWC in Barcelona, for example – but this could be addressed at I/O. There will be a live stream titled 'What's New with Project Tango' on 19 May at 3pm (11pm GMT).
Some have speculated that Google Glass could make a return too - with the first iteration failing to catch on with consumers, though businesses were more keen.
"Microsoft is pushing ahead pretty rapidly with Hololens, and Samsung as well as HTC are making headway in VR as well. Of course Google has cardboard, but they really need to take a step beyond that,” says Forrester analyst Jeffrey Hammond.
Google I/O 2016: Machine learning and virtual assistants
At Next Google Cloud Platform event in San Francisco earlier this year, Google continued to make its machine learning tools more accessible to developers that don't have a PhD in data science.
Aside from open-sourcing its TensorFlow framework, Google has launched a series of APIs around speech recognition, language translation and image recognition based on predictive algorithm that power Google's own services such as Photos and Gmail.
It is likely that Google will further its strategy at I/O, so we may see more machine learning APIs opened up for wider use. An update to Google's virtual assistant plans is also likely.
There will be an introduction to Google's cloud services on May 18, with a presentation titled 'One lap around the Google Cloud Platform. This promises to show how 'the latest advances from Google can make your services more powerful, reliable and performant” with introductions to Vision API, App Engine Flexible Environment, StackDriver monitoring.
Google I/O 2016: Android N
Despite the developer preview version of Android 7.0 – codenamed Android 'N' – being announced in March, there should be further updates during Pichai's keynote.
What do we know about Android N so far? There are number of small productivity enhancements that will appeal to business users in general, such as the free-form, multi-window mode for mobile devices. This will make multi-tasking simpler. Meanwhile, the enhanced Doze function will also mean improved power-consumption – always a plus for professionals.
Updates relate to security and the manageability of devices should appeal to IT teams. Apple's iOS may be the first choice for many corporate device strategies, but Android has made headway here too, with improvements to security and manageability. See here for more details on the recent Android for Work updates, such as multiple user accounts, bug reports and remote reboots.
On the whole, though, the Android N announcements have not been earth-shattering - but there could be more on the way today.
There has also been speculation that Chrome OS could be 'folded' into Android, though this was subsequently denied by Google. Nevertheless, we could see Chrome OS more tightly integrated in new builds of Android.
Google I/O 2016: plans for the enterprise?
I/O may be a more generalist developer conference, but in the past Google has highlighted its core enterprise plans around its Google for Work suite too.
Google has certainly been more active in pursuing big business, with the hiring of former VMware CEO Diane Greene. So could we see Pichai – who kicked off the keynote at Cloud Next – make more noise about its enterprise cloud plans this time round?