In May this year, Jonathan C, Bilue’s Senior Android Developer from our Melbourne office was one of the several thousand developers selected at random to attend Google I/O 2017 in Mountain View, California. With a welcoming conference bag that included a T-shirt, water bottle, glasses, sunscreen and a casual Google Home (the push on AI was huge this year), Jonathan was ready to take the next few days of forward-thinking announcements on board.
Although it was to be expected that Google would have lots of AI tricks to boast, that didn’t stop them from being exciting.
Google Assistant is more responsive and smarter than ever, and is expanding beyond Android to iOS.
The announcement of Google Lens showed the latest in AI integrating with a phone camera (they'll be able to do much more than sightseeing and selfies). Google Lens uses machine learning to enable a camera lens to understand exactly what it’s seeing: you could translate text directly from a photo, read reviews about a shop across the road or automatically access a Wifi network by capturing the password and network through the lens.
Hand in hand with AR Google have also been pioneering VR. Like its Android and Chrome platforms, Google plans to make VR accessible to millions. Along with the announcement of stand-alone VR headsets, one of the most memorable panels from I/O was Designing for VR. This panel unveiled efficient ways of designing VR interfaces, including a new way to work with measurements and best practices. The talk covered new workflows and techniques used by the Daydream team to create enjoyable VR experiences while avoiding common pitfalls.
Google also announced the release of Android Instant Apps. This feature, which was unveiled during the keynote last year at Google I/O 2016, allows Android users to run apps instantly and without installation. This will eliminate the friction associated with the discovery, installation and use of native Android apps, while maintaining the things that make them great. Now everyone, not just the select group of partners that have been making their apps modular up to this point, will have access to this unique feature.
A good session to get a good intro into product & business opportunity was the Introduction to Android Instant Apps session.
More exciting news came from the sessions that discussed the new Architecture Components that Google have released. These components are libraries with the aim of helping developers design robust, testable, and maintainable applications. These sessions involved technical breakdowns about the structure of each component, what problems they solve and how best to utilise them.
In contrast to their previous silence in this regard, Jonathan notes that ‘it was really interesting to see Google step up to the plate and provide the community with some tooling and guidance on how to create well structured apps, this is a win for all Android users’.
A sense of community was also given through the news of Android Go. This will be a lightweight variant of Android optimised for entry-level hardware that will allow lower-cost devices to operate in areas where internet is weaker. Now that Google has passed the 2 billion active monthly Android users mark, this is no doubt how they are preparing to reach a 3 billion milestone.
One of the biggest surprises from the festival was the news that Google will now fully support the Kotlin programming language for Android. According to Jonathan, it was this announcement which got the biggest crowd reaction during the keynote. As he adds, fully supporting Kotlin will mean ‘developers now have the endorsement to use a more capable and modern language and allow us to focus on creating interesting solutions to business problems and hopefully work faster and happier towards the goals we have set for ourselves.’
Despite the media hype and everything we can watch from the day, Jonathan says that the most memorable part of the whole experience was simply being there. ‘The keynote and the excitement of being part of such a large community, the suspense, seeing what everyone was going to announce – that was the real take-away of the 3 days’.
Until next year, then.