The annual Google I/O developers conference has kicked off in San Francisco. Google is trotting out the latest updates to its ever-expanding portfolio of gadgets and services. The live stream of the event is underway below.
A new set of hardware reference platforms, called AndroidOne, provides a turnkey opportunity for Google’s partners. This means companies are able to develop devices quickly and cheaply.
Google enters I/O as a vigorously diversifiedcompany. While Apple, which held a similar developer conference earlier this month at the same location, focuses its efforts on a small number of categories — PCs, mobile devices, and a few media services among them — Google has a wider palette. Its hand is in everything from search to tablets to smart home devices.
Google’s pitch to developers comes as tech giants are watching users switch their attention away from desktop computers to smartphones and tablets, and starting to look at other screens, including smartwatches and car dashboards. Inhabiting those platforms means Google can extend its reach, and collect the valuable user data the company — and advertisers — covet.
Google shows off LG G Watch
Google on Wednesday showed off the LG G Watch running its software. The company provided a demo of voice commands, notifications, and other actions on the device. David Singleton, director of engineering for Google, said Android Wear devices will be available with both rectangular and circular screens and will come in a “wide variety of fashionable designs.”
“We’re right at the beginning of a new phase of the miniaturization of technology, which means it’s finally possible to make a small computer that can fit comfortably on your body all day long,” Singleton said.
Google currently is hosting its annual developers conference in San Francisco. Before the event, the Mountain View, Calif., company said it would focus its army of attendees on the three Ds: design, development, and distribution. The conference regularly fills out Moscone West with more than 6,000 attendees.
Google and other companies have been looking to wearables as a new market of opportunity as smartphone and tablet growth slows. By the end of this year, over 19 million wearable devices will ship worldwide, tripling last year’s figure, market researcher IDC reported in April. By 2018, wearable shipments are expected to hit 111.9 million worldwide shipments — still a small number compared with the 1.7 billion smartphones expected to be sold that year.
Google has been making tweaks to Android so it runs better on the growing number of wearables. The company unveiled Android Wear in March, modifying an operating system that’s heavily based on its Google Now voice-recognition technology. At the time, Google said LG, Asus, HTC, Motorola, and Samsung would be the first hardware partners to use Android Wear, while Fossil Group would unveil Android Wear-powered watches later in the year.
Google unveils Android Auto
Android Auto is contextually aware, so it knows when you’re in the car and presents a simplified version of the new Android L release interface that is meant to reduce distraction. Android Auto runs on the mobile device, but mirrors its interface onto a touchscreen in the vehicle’s dashboard. The user can then interact with Android using the touch screen or voice command.
When Android Auto connects to your car, you’ll be able to tap a button and speak commands for navigation, search, and messaging. The driver can also speak text and email messages using Google’s voice input simply by tapping a steering wheel button and using the familiar commands they’ll recognize from Google Now on the phone.
Samsung Gear Live smartwatch with Android Wear
Today at the annual Google I/O developer’s conference, director of Android engineering David Singleton announced Samsung’s latest smartwatch, the Gear Live. In addition to the LG G Watch and the Moto 360, the Gear Live will run Android Wear, Google’s specialized OS for wearables. The device will be available later today online at the Google Play Store.
According to Singleton, Android Wear supports a number of key features that developers can use to seamlessly tie their mobile apps to a wearable device.
Users will be able to get handset notifications on their watches’ interface through vibrations, control their smartphone’s music app, swipe away notifications, set up voice reminders, and decline an incoming call with a personalized SMS message. Depending on the smartwatch’s equipped sensors, Android Wear can also keep tabs on a user’s steps taken throughout the day, as well as his or her heart rate.
Finally, set-top boxes with Android TV
The Mountain View, Calif. search giant said it has developed software that helps smartphones and tablets interact with a television to perform a variety of tasks, including searching for videos, controlling playback and controlling a video game. Televisions can also be controlled by a smart watch, Google said.
“TVs are fast becoming smarter and more connected,” said Dave Burke, a Google executive.
The move is part of Google’s broader effort to bring its software and services beyond typical computers, tablets and smartphones. During its Google I/O developer event in San Francisco Wednesday, the company outlined software for wearable devices, cars, and others.
The move brings Google and its partners more fully into competition with Apple, Amazon, Roku and a host of other companies attempting to bridge the connection between the Internet and the television.
While this latest effort represents Google’s biggest push yet, it’s not the first attempt by the company. Google launched its first attempt at the television in 2010 with Google TV, a separate software package that promised easy access to television listings and full access to the Web on a TV. That effort fell flat. The company tried again last year with its Chromecast, a dongle that plugs into a television and relies on a computer, tablet or smartphone to transmit music, video or photos to the device. That device’s success is unclear.
Google’s latest effort more tightly connects smartphones, tablets and other items to the television by offering the same developer tools it offers to smartphone and tablet makers. Google hopes that by tapping into the large network of developers for its smartphones, it can encourage them to begin making apps for the television as well.
A primary part of the push is with video games. Google said three out of four Android users play a title on their device, making Google one of the largest warehouses of video games in the world. In a demonstration, Google demonstrated the ability to stream games from a tablet to the television, and then interact with a connected video game controller as well.
A specialized Google Play store for Android TV will launch in the fall. Google also said it is working with TV makers such as Sharp, Sony, and LG, as well as box manufacturers like Razer, Asus to make products available in the coming months.
‘Working to bring low-cost phone to India in the fall’
Google Inc is working with three manufacturers to develop a sub-$100 smartphone for the Indian market this fall, getting Android software into one of the fastest-growing major mobile markets.
Those “Android One” phones would come with 4.5 inch screens, dual SIM cards and FM radio, Google senior vice president Sundar Pichai told the crowd at the company’s annual developers’ conference on Wednesday.
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