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IT’S ONE OF the biggest days in Google’s calendar as its developer conference Google I/O 2015 begins today in San Francisco. Like always, it’s kicking things off with its keynote talk which will go through the many new features it’s bringing over the next year. 

We’re liveblogging the event but if you want, you can watch the livestream below as well.

If you want to get in touch, email quinton@thejournal.ie, tweet @TheJournalTech, or leave a comment below.

Source: Google Developers/YouTube

Hi there, and welcome to our liveblog of Google I/O. The keynote is on from 5:30pm (Irish time) until 8pm so if you like updates about everything Google related, tonight’s your lucky night. The livestream is above if you want to watch crowds of people taking their seats.

For those of you not familiar with I/O, think of it as a preview of every new feature Google will bring over the next year. A lot of what will be announced here won’t arrive in our hands for months (we’re looking at you, Android update), but you’ll know what to look forward to.

So what can we potentially expect from this keynote? The short answer is a lot, the long answer could look something like this.

Android M - The next version of Google’s OS is expected to prioritise security and privacy controls, giving users even more control. Apart from that, expect the usual improvements to things like performance, functionality and Material Design, stuff you won’t see until mid-2016 if you own anything other than a Nexus.

Android Wear - Announced a year ago, the improvements made to the software will likely be similar to Android M, but we should get an idea of its strategy to make Android Wear watches more popular. It has at least one premium watch in the works and it might announce some new smartwatches like the Moto 360 successor as well.

Android Pay - Something that was brought up during Mobile World Congress earlier this year, Google announced it was bringing in a buy button for ads this week so expect more details on that.

Android Auto - Chances are it won’t arrive here any time soon, but Google will have a lot to say about the future of cars, both the software and its partnership with automobile companies. It may fit in a bit about its self-driving cars as well but don’t bet on it.

Google Photos - Rumours that it would be splitting up its photos section from Google+ have been doing the rounds for a while, but it’s believed that it will offer ‘unlimited storage’ and will come with better sorting features.

And that’s before we even consider the likes of Chrome (both browser and OS), Chromecast, the Internet of Things, its possible entry into the mobile phone carrier market (in the US anyway), and its work with VR through Google Cardboard. Or maybe it will throw in a few surprises into the mix.

Oh, and expect talk about APIs and SDKs as well since this is an event for developers.

(For anyone worried, future updates won’t be as long as the one below).

Right now, we’re just listening to (somewhat bland) electronic music as we wait for things to kick off. This is what the stage looks like and the screens span the entire hall.

Google IO 1 Source: Google Developers/YouTube

There are also a few people playing Pong on the large screens. As you do.

Pong Source: Google

And it looks like we’re starting. To begin, we’re having a look at the solar system and the different planets before settling on Earth. Now there’s an elevator countdown happening. We’re sure there’s a point to all of this, we’re just not sure what it is yet.

Now we’re on a farm with different internet properties and Google features. After all of that, Sundar Pichai, the senior vice president of products, takes the stage. He starts off by saying there’s two million people watching the live stream right now.

SPinchi

Pichai says there are over 600 million people on a smartphone in the past year. He starts off by running through the different products Google has and what they offer so Maps, Gmail, Android, etc.

And a brief reveal of the number of users each platform has. Google, YouTube, Maps, Android, and Chrome have 1 billion users each.

users

Some other stats Pichai mentions: 8/10 of phones shipped last year were based on Android, 4,000 distinct devices you see on Android, 35 car brands running Android Auto and 17 million Chromecasts sold.

But first, we’re talking about Android M and Mark Burke takes the stage.

Chromecast

There are six key areas where the core experience is improved, says Burke. The first one is app permissions which gets a cheer. “You don’t have to agree to a permission that you don’t agree to”.

Apps will ask for permission when you start using a feature instead of when you install it, and turn off individual permissions too, much like iOS. Here’s one example from WhatsApp.

WhatsApp permission

The second one is the web experience and how the web is being consumed. Effectively anyone can stick Chrome into their app and it supports autofill, saved passwords, etc.

It will arrive in Q3, meaning Android M will arrive around that time too.

The third is ‘app links’ which allows them to verify themselves for certain things so you don’t have to choose which app you use.

More importantly, the fourth and fifth features are Android Pay and Fingerprint support. Android Pay an open platform so “people will be able to choose the most convenient way to pay.” Fingerprint support is being standardised across Android, meaning you can use it to authorise payments, unlock your phone or unlock any apps that support it.

The last feature improved is power and charging/battery life. There’s a new feature called ‘Doze’ which means it’s smarter about using power. It uses motion detection to tell when you’re not using it, cutting off apps. High priority messages and alarms still work during this.

Burke says that a Nexus 9 using Doze lasts up to two times longer. Also, USB Type-C was briefly discussed (In short, Android will support it).

Dozing

And Burke’s going through a load of tiny extra features.  They fixed copy and paste and the volume controls which will come as a relief to some.

Android M

Now it’s all about Android Wear where the focus will be “truly useful apps”, says David Singleton. “We’re evolving Android Wear even further.”

Singleton is going through the latest updates like always on and maps, which will work in black and white glance mode, wrist gestures which will let you scroll, drawing emojis and a new launcher.

Android Wear time

Alongside health features and what apps are coming up, Singleton announces that 4,000 apps are now available on the platform and finishes off by talking about how it offers choice.

Now Pichai is back on stage and is talking about connecting physical devices. Yep, it’s a section about the Internet of Things.

4000 apps

Pichai announces Project Brillo, an Internet of Things system derived from Android, supporting WiFi, Bluetooth, and other Android features.

The other announcement is Weave which is a common language for different devices so they can talk to each other and to your phone. Android devices will auto-detect Brillo and Weave devices and they will launch in developer preview mode in Q3 and Q4.

Weave

Moving onto Search, where Pichai cites Google’s core objective to organise the world’s information. So far, we’ve learnt how to say Kermit the Frog in Spanish (the answer is Kermit la Rana) and that it’s possible because of machine learning, which helps it understand patterns, and deep neural networks.

All that talk of how Google is able to assist users with this technology leads to the Google Now team and Apama Chennapragada, director of product management, takes the stage. In short, it knows context, and one example was asking “what’s his real name” while playing Skrillex and Google gives the answer (Sonny John Moore).

Same when viewing an email about a movie, hold down the home button and one of the cards that comes up is info about said movie. It picks out keywords and brings out relevant cards like reminders.

Google now cards

Dealing with that last entry, how many people will feel creeped out about these new features, and the amount of data Google would (potentially) get from it?

It couldn’t control apps as people moved from the web, but by convincing app makers to integrate them into Now, it will have a lot more data to work with.

Now Anil Sabharwal is on to talk about photos where we take too many of them and we can’t keep track. You can see where this is going so he reveals Google Photos, which is being “built from the ground up” and centres around three main ideas.

A home for photos and videos, organise moments and making it easy to share, and how it organises photos looks similar to how the iPhone organises them. Photos are grouped by days, and pinching lets you view them in months or years.

The other element organises automatically into people, places and things and it’s done privately.

google photos

There’s also photo recognition as well and one of the examples is recognising Sabharwal’s 11-year-old daughter back to when she was a baby (that’s another one you can file under creepy).

There’s also a photo Assistant which also helps with photo organisation and editing photos/videos, and a drag to select which will be incredibly useful for saving/deleting batches of photos.

But the big announcement is you can back up and store unlimited photos and videos for free. The resolution limit is 16MP and 1080p for videos and while they’re compressed, it apparently won’t be that bad, according to Google.

It will be available later today on iOS, Android and photos.google.com.

photos

Jen Fitzpatrick is on stage and starts talking about Android One, Google’s attempt to enter the emerging smartphone markets (it expects that 1.2 billion smartphones will be sold in six of the biggest major markets).

Now it’s moved onto Chromebook, focusing on the same theme here. They’re cheap, versatile and how Google products are helping people’s lives in developing countries. The same thing goes for connectivity and data costs which Google is rethinking with its core products like search and Chrome.

regular

If Android detects that your connection is bad, it will serve fewer images and reduce the amount of data needed to load a page. That and offline viewing for Chrome and YouTube (videos can be taken offline for 48 hours) would be pretty useful in certain parts of the country here.

optimisation

Maps will also have an offline mode too, and not only can you search for places, you can view info cards, reviews, and step-by-step directions. Really, these features would be incredibly useful here.

Google Maps offline will be arriving later this year so good news for those with limited data connections.

Jason Titus, senior director at Google, is on stage and is talking about APIs and developer tools. Lest we forget, this *is* a developer conference.

The room is clapping each major announcement like Polymer which helps developers make web apps look like native apps, and cloud test apps, which lets them automate testing apps against different devices.

While talk about developer tools continues, some interesting stats mentioned during it. 100 billion searches happen every month on Google and it sends 70 billion messages through its cloud messaging platform every day.

With that out of the way, we’re onto Google Play with Ellie Powers which has 1 billion active users and 50 billion app installs in the last year.

Google found that personalisation (the apps that show on the home screen of Google Play) doubles the likelihood of someone installing an app. It’s trying to improve the way it groups apps so it’s easier to find them.

There’s a ‘family star’ label which highlights family-friendly apps and will group them based on age, or by popular characters. There will be better parental controls, filters and in-app purchases. Now it’s back to Pichai.

Google Play

Worth mentioning if it hasn’t been clear here (and mentioned by many people on Twitter), Google has had a diverse cast up on stage, with more women and people of colour than the standard while male. And while we’re on hour two now, the entire conference has flowed nicely.

Now Clay Bavor is on to talk about Google Cardboard, where he says there are “hundreds of apps” that are compatible with it. There are more than one million Cardboard viewers out there right now.

Cardboard viewers

If you’re wondering “how do you update a cardboard box?” the answer is making it bigger to fit 6-inch devices, a new cardboard button instead of a magnet and the Cardboard SDK (software developer kit) also supports iOS. And like last year, everyone at I/O gets one.

The current talk is on Expeditions, which allows teachers to take kids on field trips through Google Cardboard. The teacher controls the VR from a tablet and the students see the same thing. It’s a really nice idea, in fairness.

Now we’re watching a video of kids using it saying “whoooahhhhh” quite a lot.

Expeditions

How do they capture all of this VR? The answer to that is a custom camera rig called Jump which puts all the cameras in a ring to let you record things.

It’s partnered with GoPro which plans to build a Jump-ready 360 degree camera kit. This is what it looks like. By using an assembler, it stitches together this footage to create a spherical video.

GoPro

So that’s what the wraparound screens are for. It’s showing off a video with recorded footage from from Iceland. Bavor says it’s been working on its own VR player for a while and it’s called… YouTube. To be fair, it was a good joke (and some of the audience laughed if that counts for something).

Jump will be available to a select few people in the summertime. Now Pichai’s back again and he’s talking about driverless cars. Could there be a proper update this time?

The cars have driven over a million miles autonomously but it’s now moved onto Project Loon, its effort to bring internet access to remote areas. It seems like he’s just going to touch upon the different projects it’s working on instead of a major reveal.

Google Cars

And that’s it. Pichai wraps up the event and Google I/O is done and dusted for another year. Thanks for joining us.

About the author:

Quinton O'Reilly

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