Google I/O 2016: our early predictions for Google’s big event
Update: We’ve added new details regarding Google VR, Android VR, Google [x] jobs for the self-driving car project, Project Tango and the Android N update below.
Google’s annual developer conference is one of the most exclusive must-attend events on the Android calendar. It’s not always easy to get in, but if you can, it’s definitely worth it. I was lucky enough to go last year and got to meet Sundar Pichai and Larry Page for the effort. Rubbing shoulders with CEOs, engineers, developers and enthusiasts aside, though, what else can you expect from Google I/O 2016?
Google I/O 2016 dates and location
Back on January 12, freshly minted Google CEO Sundar Pichai tweeted the dates and location for Google I/O 2016: May 18-20 at the Shoreline Amphitheater in Mountain View, California. For those unfamiliar with the location, it’s a long way away from any hotels and doesn’t exactly feature great public transport options, sparking widespread speculation that it might have been chosen to provide Google the opportunity to show off its self-driving cars…
Google I/O 2016 app
The official Google I/O 2016 app isn’t in Google Play yet, but each year the old app gets replaced with the new one, so when the new one goes live you can grab it via the button below. The Google I/O app includes live streams for the keynote and major sessions, schedules, maps, reminders and some fun stuff.
Install Google I/O app
What to expect from Google I/O 2016
This one is a given, because Google announced a while back that annual developer previews of the next major Android release will be presented at each year’s I/O conference. 2016 will be no different, with the Android N developer preview making its first appearance. The preview will receive regular updates for the remainder of the year before being released in its final form at Nexus time in late September or early October.
As far as what Android N will deliver at I/O, there are a few things confirmed already: multi-window mode, better tablet support and a shift to OpenJDK. Major rumors point to stock stylus support, a new messaging app, Chrome OS integration of some form or another and Google may also try to make Doze functional even when the device is in motion. Check out the link below for the full breakdown.
It’s probably still too early to see Force Touch baked into stock Android yet, so that will likely have to wait at least until the Android O release and there’s still time for the dark theme and advanced power menu options to appear in an upcoming Marshmallow update.
See also: Android N features: everything confirmed, rumored and expected88
Google announced at Google I/O 2015 that the first self-driving cars would be released on the streets of Mountain View in 2016. So what better time to demo what they’re capable of than at Google I/O 2016? It may be a little far-fetched to expect Google to arrange transport for thousands of I/O attendees via its tiny autonomous vehicles, but the event will definitely give everyone the chance to take a ride in one. However, Google has recently advertised 36 jobs in the self-driving car project, so things are definitely gathering steam…
The Google division in charge of self-driving cars formerly known as Google[x] – and now simply known as X – has just received a new CEO who is, incidentally, a former Ford and Hyundai exec. We can expect to see John Krafcik take the stage with all the latest on Google’s autonomous vehicles and their expected commercial release in 2020.
A massive shake up of Android Wear is long overdue. The mobile platform came out early, moved sluggishly, and has now been surpassed by both Apple’s wearable platform and even Samsung’s Tizen OS. With multiple OEMs grumbling last year that if Google didn’t start pushing the wearable platform more aggressively they would consider developing their own, it’s now crunch time for Android Wear. I can’t tell you what will be announced, but I sure hope something significant is.
I was at the ATAP session last year and witnessed a fully functional Project Ara prototype get assembled on stage in seconds. The camera module was left out until the device had booted up, then it was inserted, runtime detected and working within seconds. Pretty impressive stuff. With the official trial of Project Ara being delayed until 2016 you know there will be some stage time dedicated to it. Unfortunately, we’ve seen no evidence that project Ara will be making an appearance at MWC 2016, although a bizarre 13.8-inch Project Ara tablet recently appeared on GFXBench.
See also: Lenovo launching Project Tango phone1
Yet again we’re expecting Android Auto to be front and center at I/O 2016. Android Auto is really starting to enter the mainstream and the first sub-$20,000 vehicle was just announced last week: the Hyundai Elantra. 2016 may well be the year that Android Auto stops being something only geeks talk about and starts being something everyone talks about. Considering Android Auto didn’t rate a mention at I/O 2015, it should definitely get some stage time this year. Let’s hope there’s lots more third-party apps coming.
Project Aura is Google Glass 2.0. At least it would be if the original Glass had ever gone anywhere other than the Explorer Edition. Aura is supposedly the Enterprise Edition that recently showed up in FCC documents, showing a slightly revised design with a hinge and larger prism. The consumer version of Glass may well be dead and buried now, but what final form Project Aura will take and when it will be available is anyone’s guess.
The recently announced Project Tango smartphone from Google and Lenovo will be shown off at MWC 2016, but we’re pretty sure it will also get some more advanced air time at I/O. Depending on how far along the device is, it may just make its way into the 2016 I/O goodie bag for attendees. The official announcement of the Google/Lenovo partnership said the device would be available in “summer of 2016”.
Following Google’s creation of a new virtual reality division called, creatively enough, Virtual Reality, a recent story from the Financial Times has Google baking Android VR into stock Android and producing a slightly higher-end Cardboard viewer made out of plastic that will work will all smartphones. Yet another report, this time from The Wall Street Journal, has Google making a new standalone VR headset that doesn’t require any smartphone, PC or games console to operate, with a chip sourced from a Dublin-based chip maker by the name of Movidius.
With all these stories appearing in major outlets, big things are clearly afoot at Google VR. Keep an eye out at I/O 2016 for the possibility of two new VR products, an Android VR announcement, more on 360 video, YouTube quality, Cardboard partnerships and Expeditions. Google may have been a little late to the VR game, but at this rate, Facebook and Oculus are about to get some pretty serious competition in 2016.
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I actually don’t think there will be any major Chrome OS announcement at I/O 2016, unless they are related to the arrival of Material Design. Despite the recent rumor that Chrome OS would be folded into Android, Google officially denied the claim. Furthermore, Google’s SVP of Android, Chrome OS and Chromecast, Hiroshi Lockheimer, has assured everyone that there will be a range of new Chromebooks in 2016, but we probably won’t see them until Nexus time. However, we will probably see some kind of Chrome OS integration demoed in Android N.
Considering Google’s excellent carrier-switching Project Fi is still only available for Nexus users, Google I/O 2016 would be a great time to announce the service is available for more smartphone owners. We can’t say we’ve seen any evidence of this ourselves, but there are a few rumors pointing to this possibility. If you know something we don’t feel free to share your evidence in the comments below.
There’s also sure to be more on Nest, GoogleOn and smart home integration, the Internet of Things generally and project Brillo specifically, and maybe even something about a commercial application for Project Soli’s radar sensor for wearables.
What do you expect to see at Google I/O 2016? Will you be there?