Thursday, June 28, 2012

Google I/O 2012 keynote: Google Now, Jelly Bean, Google+ and Project Glass

In addition to discussing the Nexus 7 tablet and Nexus Q "social streaming media player," Google discussed a number of other new initiatives. One of them, Project Glass, came in on an airplane.

Google Now - Google Now is a card-based search interface that takes your local time and your location into account, as well as your search history and calendar, making your search more relevant. In other words, it learns from your behavior (finally, a good use for all that user data they have).

For example, if you have an appointment, Google Now will ensure that "you get there on time." For example, it will tells you how long a bus trip will take (including a walk to the bus stop and the bus schedule). If you have a flight scheduled, Google Now will keep track of flight status.

Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean): Naturally the Nexus 7 will sport Jelly Bean, or Android 4.1, so Google detailed some of the features of its upcoming platform version. For one, there is Project Butter. Not a dessert like Froyo or Jelly Bean, Project Butter refers to an initiative to make Android UI "fast, fluid and smooth" (like butter).

The Google I/O demo showed two Galaxy Nexus devices side-by-side, one running Ice Cream Sandwich and the other running Jelly Bean, and the latter could be seen showing a noticeably higher frame rate frame rate throughout Android's UI.

In a slight change, Google has added Offline Voice Typing which means an Internet connection is no longer required for voice input. Voice search has improved as well, with a very natural-sounding voice responding to queries.

Google claimed that responses will be returned "much faster" than current voice search results. The onstage demo included the voice search query of "Show me pictures of pygmy marmosets," which the software returned ideal results for. Of course, it's still not Siri, but it's improved.

Widgets can now be moved around with icons rearranging themselves automatically. If you move the widget to a new homescreen, it can even resize itself.

Notifications get an upgrade, too, Gmail notifications will include a richer preview of unread messages, which could be cool as we personally use K-9 so we can get a nice preview of the email in the notification bar. Google said, Jelly Bean notifications are "actionable, they expand and collapse, and they're customizable."

Obviously, Google has to do something to push past iOS, which basically stole its current notifications from Android.

Starting with Jelly Bean, paid apps will be encrypted and delivered with a device-specific key. App updates will no longer require you to re-download an entire application, but just the incremental update. Camera and gallery applications will also be updated.

Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean) will be distributed as OTA to the Galaxy Nexus, the Motorola Xoom, and the Nexus S. The first device to ship with Jelly Bean, of course, will be the Nexus 7. The Nexus 7 will also be the first device to ship with Chrome as the default web browser.

Google+: Google+ will become a year old tomorrow (June 28). Google spent some time discussing what it calls a great success. Actual usage of Google+ remains arguable, though.

After addressing minor changes to Google+ as it is now, the company announced a "fix" to the problem of boring Web invitations: Google+ Events. "We've created a way to send beautiful invitations, with deep integration to Google Calendar."

It's hardly a game changer, but it's there.

There is also a Party Mode. When guests turn on Party Mode, pictures automatically appear on the event page.

Project Glass: A quick "demo" of Project Glass, with skydivers landing on the roof above Moscone Center wearing the smart glasses, transmitting video the whole way. Once they reached the roof, they transferred a package with a Glass unit to a set of bikers, who took it the rest of the way to the event.

Don't forget the repellers who went down the side of the building.

Unfortunately, it was the wrong set of Glass smartglasses, Brin joked. With that, Sergey Brin said they'd have to do it again - and record it with behind-the-scenes footage, to boot.

Discussing the Glass project, it's clear the device has much of the functionality of a smartphone, right down to radios. It has a touchpad, sensors (like a gyroscope and an accelerometer), and of course a button to take pictures.

While there were plenty of demos, the key takeaway was the Google Glass Explorer Edition, and only available for pre-orders to Google I/O attendees (in the U.S.) because they feel that Google I/O attendees will provide useful feedback. Price: $1,500.

Google said they plan to ship the pre-release devices in early 2013.

After the day's events, as well, Google said they would have the first "real" Google I/O event. That will include use of a super-cool invitation as well as "Party Mode."

Tchotchkes: Those in attendance who were expecting some cool "parting gifts" got them. Google announced all attendees would be gifted with the Android Developer Pack which includes the Galaxy Nexus and the Nexus 7. In case you were wondering, yes, ADP also includes a Nexus Q.

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