Last night was the opening of Google I/O, Google’s annual developers conference. Streamed live via YouTube, Google’s best and brightest took turns to tell the world how much the search giant had achieved in 2012 and what they have in store for us in 2013. The whole keynote lasted for over 3 hours and we were glued to it all.
The tech community had been warned ahead of time that this year I/O would not contain any huge headlines like those of previous years but there was still plenty of interesting announcements. Along with looking at the impressive growth of android and the chrome browser, Google also announced a new music streaming service to compete with spotify. There was the new Google app store (Google Play) and a raft of new APIs for developers to play with.
There were a number of announcements about Google’s social networking platform including a new layout (which takes a little getting used to) and a new system of automated hashtags to easily find further information on a given subject. A number of the updates involved images including a new automatic enhancement feature and new highlights view for image albums.
The image album highlights are intended to be a selection of the best images from that album. Google said they could use a number of factors to pick which images appeared in the highlights ranging from filtering out photos which are blurry through to giving prominence to photos which contain close family, smiling faces or known landmarks.
It was announced that Google maps would be getting a big update in the near future with an improved interface and simple 5 star based review system which will be used across all Google Maps experiences. There were a number of improvements to the navigational features including live accident information and side by side route options for different types of transport.
Improvements to the images allows the new Google Maps interface to be far more visually impressive without hindering performance. There is a much smoother transition as you zoom out from street view level and it does not stop until you can see the whole earth from space including live cloud coverage and the Earths position in relation to the Sun.
Voice search is already available on mobile devices and for people using chrome but it will now be available across all desktops. A system of “hotwords” will allow users to interact with Google using only their voice and will support real conversational language. During the demonstration the phrase “ok Google” would get the search engines attention after which a range of questions were asked for Google to then provide an answer. This went beyond just searching the web as Google was asked for pre booked flight information, to set reminders and to display photos taken by the user the previous year. Google even understood the phrase “how do I get there?” by taking the users current location and the location from a previous search query and using the two to get directions from Google Maps.
There were some big gaps such as Google glass which was absent from the whole keynote but there was still plenty to keep you interested. There may not be the big headline grabbing announcement this year but there was still some very impressive stuff going on. For those with privacy concerns there will be plenty to fuel the fire but it is hard to deny that Google are creating an experience that is looking more and more impressive and inviting as the months go by.