The Biggest News From The Google I/O Opening Keynote

Google I/O kicked off this morning, with the search giant showing off a bunch of new tech. Although the event is pitched at developers, it gives a strong indication of the kinds of things we will see in the near future. Here are some of the highlights.

Google’s CEO, Sundar Pichai, opened the event, saying the use of AR and other emerging technologies are really hard computer science problems but that it’s driving the company forward.

Android Q

Android Q is getting a bunch of new features.

Dark theme will be part of the OS, available from the pull-down settings menu. It will also be the default mode when you’re in Battery Saver mode and many native apps already support the new mode in the most recent beta release.

New gestures have also been added with Swipe Up to go to home from any app. Swiping from the left and right sides lets you switch between open apps.

Those new gestures will require some developers to change the way their apps are designed.

Android updates will come a little differently. Security and privacy updates will come from the Play Store as part of something Google calls “Project Mainline”.

Big feature updates are part of a different initiative, “Project Treble“. This has been around for a while and continues to grow.

A new Privacy section in Settings will pull together all your privacy-related settings so you can more easily find and manage them.

Notifications get some attention with the ability to manage a notification without launching an app.

When you’re watching a video, the improving local AI capability of Android Q will add live captions. So, if you’re watching a video but have forgotten your headphones you can read what the people in your clip are saying. It’s a great accessibility feature.

Focus mode is also new. It lets you grey out apps that disturb you when you’re working or that are distractions. For example, you can set focus mode to disable access to social media apps. If you try to open the app you’ll get an “are you sure” message.

The Pixel 3A and Pixel 3A XL

As expected, Google announced budget versions of their smartphone range. The glass backs are replaced with plastic, the CPU spec has been dropped and wireless charging is out but you get a headphone jack and the Pixel’s excellent camera.

Battery life is rated at up to 30 hours as the devices use machine learning to optimise life.

Local pricing isn’t available yet. But the Pixel 3A starts at US$399.

Personal References

By now, most of us familiar with Google’s Knowledge Graph – it’s the map of things in the world and their relationships. It allows you to get an an accurate answer when you ask Google for the coffee shop closest to your current location.

Incidentally, that data model Google has assembled, which is excess of 100GB, can now are represented in about 0.5GB allowing it to be used directly on mobile devices.

That also means many operations will work when you’re offline and not rely on an internet connection to conduct basic operations.

The graph is now being expanded to understand your personal graph. This new feature, called Personal References, means you can ask Google questions like “How long will it take to get to mum’s place?”.

As “Mum’s Place” could be the name of a coffee shop, B&B or a number of other locations, the Personal References tool lets that request reference your personal map.

Nest Hub Max

Smart home devices are all the rage. The Nest Hub Max brings a camera, 10-inch display, mic and speaker into one package.

As well as all the obvious features such as video calling, viewing photos, watching YouTube and accessing the Google Assistant, the Nest Hub Max can be used as a security camera when you’re not home.

And the Nest and Google Home divisions merging.

Google Duplex expands

Last year, Google Duplex was demonstrated to make a restaurant reservation. Pichai said it’s now available in 44 US states and is expanding to other web-based tasks such as movie ticketing and rental car bookings.

He demonstrated how Google Asistant could be used to rent a car. The software launched the rental web site and filled in the online forms automatically, giving you a chance to confirm the details.


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