What to expect at Google I/O 2018: Android P, Google Assistant, and more
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If you’re waiting for the latest and greatest in Google news, then you’re probably looking forward to the start of Google I/O on May 8. For the uninitiated, Google I/O is the company’s annual developer conference where it announces upcoming features, tools, as well as software products and services for everything in its ecosystem. That includes what’s new in Android, Chromebooks, Google Assistant, Android Auto, or and plenty more. It’s also where developers from around the world congregate to discuss their craft, and attend workshops by Google’s finest and brightest.
So what’s in store? Here’s everything we expect to see at Google I/O 2018, and how to watch it.
How to watch the event
Google I/O 2018 will be running from May 8 through May 10, and there are a variety of ways to watch it. Google has launched official apps for both Android and iPhone which will contain the conference schedule and information leading up to and during the event.
If you want to watch the keynote, the Google Developers YouTube channel will have a livestream ready, and you can keep an eye on our Google I/O page to see when that goes live, as well as the latest from the event. We’ve also embedded our Twitch channel to the top of this post so you can watch the keynote right here as well.
Finally, make sure you keep an eye on our Twitter feeds to make sure you’re up-to-date with the moment-to-moment discoveries. Follow Digital Trends, DTMobile, and our on-the-ground representative Julian Chokkattu on Twitter to make sure you’re kept well informed.
Android P Developer Preview 2
This is an easy one, and it will likely be one of the biggest announcements made at the keynote. Google traditionally shows off the next incarnation of its Android operating system at I/O, with 2017’s and 2016’s shows seeing the launch of the second developer previews of Android Oreo and Android Nougat, respectively. The second preview is typically an open beta, so anyone with Android phones like the Google Pixel and Pixel 2 will be able to sign up and test the new version immediately. Don’t expect to learn Android P‘s dessert-based name at I/O (Peppermint, Popsicle, Persimmon — your guess is as good as ours), though, as that’s usually reserved for the official launch in August.
But what will Android P actually bring to the table? The first developer preview came out in March, and it seems that some major overhauls are coming. First up is the removal of the venerable navigation buttons at the bottom of each phone. That’s right, Google is apparently looking to nix the back, home, and recent apps button in favor of a single, capsule-shaped button. Paired with this new button is added support for gesture controls — similar to the iPhone X — that will mimic the functionality of the missing buttons.
The revamp of Material Design is also on the table, with Google doing away with the old guidelines in favor of what most are calling “Material Design 2.0”. Outside of the changes to the navigation buttons, these changes could include rounder corners, and a generally darker color palette.
We’re also expecting to see more ways to interact with notifications and use basic functions without entering apps — something Google has been working towards for some time now — as well as the addition of notch-support baked into the software. It’s looking more and more likely that the future of Android — at least for the next year or so — includes notches. We also expect the usual improvements to battery life, security, and tweaks to background processes as well. You can check out all these changes in more depth in our Android P news article.
Android P | Material Design 2
Android Auto, Google’s car infotainment system and app, may be getting some attention this year. The Android Auto Sandbox on the Google I/O app makes particular mention of a “brand new media experience for Android Auto, both on your phone screen and on your car display,” as well as a working in-car model. Expect more integration with Google’s existing services like Google Assistant, Google Play Music, and Google Maps.
Google also has three sessions centered around Android Auto planned, with some amount of attention going towards apps that have successfully melded into the Android Auto ecosphere — it’s plain to see that Google wants to push more developers into Android Auto, and I/O is the perfect place to do that.
New Google Assistant features
Google Assistant is pretty handy, having been named the best AI assistant in the world for the second year running, but we’d be fools if we told you Google is happy to stop there.
We’re already aware of a lot of Google’s plans for Assistant over the coming year — 2018 will hopefully see it expand to more than 30 languages, set Routines to automate your life, and pay your friends quickly easily with Google Pay integration. Google also announced Assistant is available on more than 5,000 smart home products. With all this already laid out, we’re not sure exactly what Google will have to show that’s new in Assistant. We mostly expect Google to showboat a little, showing off Routines (perhaps with more options), and talk about Assistant’s global reach and expansion. That said, you should to expect to see a few new features — Assistant is more or less Google’s flagship product at the moment, after all.
What are we likely to not see? The rumored Assistant-powered smart display — that may be reserved for Google’s annual hardware event in October.
Updates for Google Home models
Updates for the Google Home series of smart speakers comes hand-in-hand with updates for Google Assistant. We may see more about the rumored Google Home smart display intended to take on the Echo Show, but as we mentioned above, Google may reserve that for its October event. Expect to see more about Routines, as well as more integration with the Internet of Things.
Google Home | Google Home Mini | Google Home Max | Google Home Smart Display
Simon Hill / Digital Trends
The rebranding that saw Android OS morph into Wear OS is still fresh in many minds, and it seems inconceivable that Google would let I/O pass without some mentions of its smartwatch operating system. Since Android P is on the way to Wear OS, expect to hear more about that particular update, as well as the possibility of a beta program for Wear OS smartwatches. We’ll be keeping a close eye on the “What’s new in Wear OS by Google” session.
Will we see a Google-built Wear OS device at I/O? It seems unlikely. Google has shown little interest so far in regards to making its own watches, and if a Pixel Watch was in the works, we’re fairly sure we would have heard something by now. Besides, it would make more sense to debut it alongside the Pixel 3 range later in the year.
Wear OS | Wear OS Android P dev preview
New Google Photos features
Last year saw the announcement of a plethora of new features for Google Photos, including Photo Books, Google Lens, and even more sharing options. They were updates that gave you choices, and added quality-of-life improvements.
If you thought the app might take a backseat this year, think again. Google’s schedule lists a dedicated session entitled “What’s new in Google Photos.” What can you expect? Like the previous year, probably nothing that’s likely to set your world on fire — expect general improvements to Google Photos’ functions, as well as some possible improvements to Google Lens.
Augmented and Virtual Reality
There are a huge amount of sessions at this year’s I/O dedicated to both augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR), so it seems fairly safe that we’ll see some pretty major developments for both areas.
Out of AR and VR, it seems likely that AR will get the bulk of the attention. In December last year, Google killed Project Tango to focus on the less hardware-based ARCore, and it’s a strategy that’s serving Google well. Shortly after launching ARCore 1.0 in February of 2018, more than 60 ARCore-powered apps were available on the Google Play Store, and development has continued on some of Google’s experimental AR projects, providing the framework for continued advancement. Expect to see a fair amount about how AR will shape the future of education, the web, and our general life.
But that doesn’t mean VR is left out in the cold. The Daydream platform is probably due some more attention too, especially in regards to standalone VR headsets.
Google Daydream View | Lenovo Mirage Solo with Daydream | ARCore apps
An Android TV dongle with remote control
Almost a month ago, an FCC page revealed images of an Android TV dongle, complete with Google branding and separate remote. While that page went down fairly quickly, the cat was well and truly out of the bag, so it seems likely that we’ll see an Android TV dongle with a remote.
According to documentation of the device, it’s capable of playing 4K content, and comes with 2GB of RAM and 8GB of internal storage, all running on Android 8.0 Oreo. The remote control will also reportedly come with a dedicated Google Assistant button, adding AI assistance into the mix. While there’s a chance this is fake, the FCC’s later removal of the product and introduction of confidentiality agreement points at this being a legitimate device. If Google is about to announce a reasonably-priced Android TV dongle with a remote, it could give some of the competing services something to worry about.
A toaster that’s connected to the internet seems like a really cool idea, until you realize the toaster’s firmware is likely to never be updated. Leaving it connected could potentially be a hacker’s dream route into your systems. But what’re you to do if you really, really want to be able to toast your bread remotely?
Android Things is Google’s solution to this problem. By uniting the Internet of Things under the Android umbrella, smart devices could be much more easily updated, as well as secured against outside attack. While Android had previously been lambasted for poor security, Google has been working hard to reverse that, making Android Things a much more attractive proposition.
So are we likely to see an Android Things-related announcement at I/O? We think so. A final developer preview for it launched last month.
Daven Mathies/Digital Trends
Chrome OS only has a single entry in Google’s schedule at I/O, but we’re hoping it’ll be a fairly significant one for the Chrome OS community. The biggest thing to happen to Chrome OS in the last few years has been the introduction of Android apps onto Chrome OS-powered devices, as well as the addition of Google Assistant.
The single session planned is titled “What’s new in Android apps for Chrome OS,” and we’re hoping it’s an announcement that even more Chromebooks — past, present, and future — will definitely have Play Store support.
Will Google’s long-rumored Fuchsia OS be revealed at this year’s I/O? Fuchsia is a third Google-developed OS — alongside Android and Chrome — that has an unknown purpose. Is it meant to replace or unite Android and Chrome, or is a separate entity entirely? At this moment in time, Fuchsia raises more questions than it answers, and considering the secrecy that still surrounds the project, it’s probably fair to assume we won’t be seeing it this year.
It’s clear that development on the OS is still ongoing, with plenty of attention being paid to Flutter — the development kit being used to assemble Fuchsia.
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