Google has numerous events throughout the year, but I/O — an acronym for the computing phrase “input/output” — is by far the biggest. It’s a three-day affair of keynote presentations, developer workshops, and product announcements, and it’s where Google has unveiled a range of innovations, including Project Jacquard, Google Home, and Daydream.
We’re expecting Google I/O 2017 to be no less newsworthy. The festivities at the Shoreline Amphitheater in Mountain View, California don’t begin until May 17 at 10 a.m. PT — the day and time of the conference’s first keynote address — but rumors have already begun to circulate about what Google has up its sleeve. Here’s how to watch the conference, and what to expect.
Can’t make it to I/O? Not to worry — Digital Trends will have boots on the ground covering I/O. If you want to stream video directly from the show floor, Google has made it easy. Like last year, the official I/O website and corresponding app (iOS, Android) offer an interactive schedule that allows you to keep track of upcoming developer sessions — you can add sessions you’re interested in straight to your Google Calendar to get notifications before they start. The sessions with the black video camera icon mean they will be available for live-streaming on YouTube via the Google Developers channel.
In the past, Google has teased forthcoming iterations of Android, its smartphone operating system, at I/O, and this year’s conference won’t be an exception. Android O, the successor to Android 7.1.2 Nougat, launched quietly in March as an unfinished, buggy Developer Preview. We’re expecting new developments at this year’s conference.
Specifically, we’re likely to hear more about Android O’s revamped notification system, which lets you snooze alerts and schedule them to reappear at a later time, and Notification Channels, which allow developers to aggregate multiple notifications into a single bundle. Google will also likely talk about Android O’s battery life management,which puts strict limits on apps running in the background, and the company could spend time detailing Android O’s high-quality Bluetooth audio capabilities.
At the very least, we wouldn’t be surprised to see a second, more polished Android O Developer Preview for Nexus (Nexus 5X, Nexus 6P, and Nexus Player) and Pixel (Pixel and Pixel XL) devices. Google could announce an Android O update for the Android Beta program, which would make it easy for those interested to download onto supported devices. If we’re lucky, we might learn what “O” stands for, but that announcement usually comes later in the year.
What is Fuchsia? It’s a mysterious new operating system, and we’re really hoping Google will spill the beans at I/O 2017.
Fuchsia, also known as Armadillo, is a little different from Google’s other operating systems in that it’s not based on Linux. Instead, it’s built around a kernel called Magenta, which the company describes as “[coded for] modern phones and modern personal computers.” It sports a re-imagined user interface with a home screen that showcases your profile picture and the current day and time, along with a list of cards that show recent apps and Google Now-like contextual suggestions.
It’s unclear if Fuchsia’s meant to be an alternative to Android. Hopefully, I/O 2017 will bring answers.
Andromeda and Chrome OS
At I/O 2016, Google announced that Android apps were coming to select Chromebooks. Some reports — including one from the Wall Street Journal in 2016 — suggested it was a harbinger of tighter integration between the two operating systems to come. At I/O 2017, we’ll see once and for all if that’s true.
Late last year, reports suggested that at least two major hardware manufacturers were in the process of creating devices that would run Andromeda, the code name of a unified OS made from bits and pieces of Android and Chrome OS. The hardware is rumored to launch in the second half of 2017. More recent leaks point to a bigger event later this year, potentially headlined by Android O, a Huawei-made tablet, and a long-rumored successor to Google’s last Pixel-branded Chromebook. There have yet to be any official reports.
Chromebooks, such as Samsung’s new Chromebook Plus and Chromebook Pro, can run Android apps — though the feature has been in beta for months with little improvement. Google may make an announcement regarding this at I/O 2017.
Google Home, Google’s smart speaker, is flying off the shelves. Some analysts estimate that the company’s on track to sell a million units by the middle of 2017. It’s no surprise that Google is reportedly at work on a successor — and one it could announce at I/O 2017.
Rumors suggest Google is looking to add mesh Wi-Fi networking features to Home — basically a combination of Google Wifi and Google Home. If true, the new Google Home will have to impress to beat back competition. Amazon’s forthcoming Echo Show speaker touts a touchscreen and a camera, allowing it to serve up news briefings from CNN, video-conferencing apps, and more. Apple is reportedly working on a smart home assistant, too — one powered by Siri — with a powerful speaker and support for HomeKit, its home automation platform.
We wouldn’t be surprised to see a new Google Home announcement at I/O 2017, considering Google unveiled the first iteration of the device at last year’s conference. Don’t expect it to launch any time soon, though.
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends
The Google Assistant, Google’s umbrella brand for the virtual assistant on newer Android devices, Google Home, Android TV, and Android Wear, launched at I/O 2016. Back then, it could schedule reminders and pull up nearby movie showtimes, among other tasks. Thankfully, it’s gotten way better in the time since.
Google has kept the Assistant up to date. In April, Google Home gained the ability to distinguish between up to six different voices, and more recently, a recipe feature that recommends dishes and guides you through the cooking process. Google Assistant on the Pixel also received an update to control smart home devices.
We’re not expecting earth-shattering Google Assistant news from I/O 2017, but integrations with new services are pretty much a guarantee.
There hasn’t been much news about Daydream, Google’s answer to Samsung’s Gear VR, since its launch last fall.
The Daydream platform, which consists of the Daydream View headset and a motion controller, is available on select Android smartphones such as the Google Pixel, ZTE’s Axon 7, Asus’ Zenfone 3 Deluxe, and Lenovo’s Moto Z and Moto Z Force. There’s an augmented reality and virtual reality keynote on May 18, the second day of I/O, so it’s safe to say we can expect a lot of updates to the Daydream platform.
There’s also a slim chance that Google could take the wraps off a new VR device at I/O 2017. Last year, the search giant was said to be developing a standalone VR headset that is “less powerful” than products such as the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift, but with the necessary chips, lenses, sensors, and motion-sensing cameras to deliver a self-contained VR experience. We’ll have to wait and see if the rumor pans out.
Project Jacquard and ATAP
Android, AI, VR, and TV may form the bulk of Google’s business, but some of the more interesting announcements come from its experimental pursuits from the Advanced Technology and Projects division.
Project Jacquard, one of ATAP’s most impressive projects, is a capacitive platform for textiles. It can turn ordinary shirt sleeves into touch-sensitive surfaces, or pant legs into gesture-sensing shortcut buttons. Google partnered with Levi’s for Jacquard’s first implementation, the Commuter jacket, which has a touch-sensitive cuff strap (the Jacquard Tag). It performs actions on your smartphone when you swipe across it or tap it. It’s early, but we might hear about new Jacquard partners and apparel at I/O 2017.
Project Soli, another ATAP project, is a tiny radar that detects hand gestures on smart clothing, smartwatches, and other devices. Google’s gotten it in the hands of about 60 developers so far, and shipped the first developer kits last year. So far, Soli tech has made its way to prototype smartwatches — Soli-equipped watches can adjust the volume when you move your hand closer and further away, and open messages with the flick of a finger — but we’ve yet to see any consumer devices hit the market. Here’s hoping that changes at I/O 2017.
We also wouldn’t be surprised to see new experiments from ATAP as well.
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends
It’s been almost three years since Google launched Android Wear, its smartwatch OS. Since then, Swiss watchmakers and electronics makers alike have adopted it earnestly — and aggressively. These days, it’s easy to find an Android Wear watch from LG, Fossil, Tag Heuer, Nixon, Polar, Michael Kors, New Balance, Huawei, and a host of other manufacturers.
Earlier this year, Google launched a reimagined version of the OS — Android Wear 2.0 — following an unveiling at Google I/O 2016. It features a revamped, vertically-oriented user interface, watch face Complications (small sub dials that act as notification-centric widgets), the Google Assistant, and a Wear Google Play Store. Most of the year’s biggest Android Wear watch launches took place at Baselworld 2017, the luxury trade show in Switzerland, but there’s a chance Google might announce minor tweaks at I/O 2017.
Allo and Duo
Google announced two new communication apps, Allo and Duo, at Google I/O 2016. Allo, a text-based messenger that was the first to tap into the Google Assistant, has seen a steady stream of updates since. However, Allo still lacks a desktop app. In February, Googl’s Vice President of communications products, tweeted a screenshot of an in-development Allo web app, which we expect to hear more about at I/O 2017.
Duo, a video messenger, hasn’t gotten as much attention, but it recently hit 50 million downloads on the Play Store. We could hear more about the Duo team’s connectivity efforts at I/O 2017.
Chromecast and Android TV
I/O 2017 may bring news about Chromecast, Google’s HDMI streaming dongle that turns your TV into a big-screen receiver. It was at I/O 2014, after all, that Google launched Backdrop, a Chromecast feature that lets you beam artwork and photos from a smartphone to a Chromecast. And the year before at I/O 2015, Google rolled out Chromecast tools aimed at game developers.
Last fall, Google launched a 4K-enabled Chromecast — the Chromecast Ultra — which supports Ultra HD content and high dynamic range (HDR), a more colorful and high-contrast video encoding standard. Google has also been partnering with manufacturers to build the Google Cast technology into various devices. You can cast directly to speakers and TVs from Vizio, Sony, LG, Philips, Polk, and Bang and Olufsen, so far, with more OEMs joining the fray every year. We wouldn’t be surprised if Google announced new hardware partners at I/O 2017.
Android TV hasn’t received as much attention from Google as, say Android Wear, but it’s gotten its fair share of updates. We’re not sure what to expect about the platform, but there could be a Google Assistant integration in the works — similar to what Amazon has done with the Fire TV Stick and Alexa.
Google’s Project Loon, which aims to bring internet to underdeveloped regions of the world with the help of transceiver-equipped hot air balloons, could get a mention or two at I/O 2017.
Google’s engineers have managed impressive feats so far. Thanks to a self-powered, self-contained system of solar panels and a predictive weather model, Project Loon balloons can now remain airborne for 190 days. During a test in South Africa last year, the team sent a balloon from Puerto Rico to Peru — a trip it completed after 12 days and more than 20,000 altitude adjustments.
We expect to hear more about Project Loon’s advancements — and plans for the future — at an I/O 2017 session next week.
Android Auto, Google’s infotainment platform for vehicles, could see fresh announcements. Not too long ago, the platform got an upgrade in the form of Android Auto 2.0, which added support for hands-free voice commands, improved apps, real-time traffic, and weather alerts.
Last year, Hyundai brought Android Auto support to its Blue Link system, allowing drivers to use the Google Assistant to start their car, lock the doors, and carry out a slew of other useful actions. Kia recently deployed Android Auto as a free software update on cars spanning model years 2014 through 2017. Google said more than 200 new car models from 50 brands now support Android Auto. Expect that number to grow at I/O 2017.
Project Tango and AR
We could see more news about Google’s Project Tango, a self-contained augmented reality platform, at I/O 2017.
The impressive software-sensor combo can track objects, walls, and table surfaces in three-dimensional space. The best Project Tango apps and games enable computer-generated characters to bounce on top of nearby tables, virtual drapes to draw closed over real-world windows, and digital dominoes to topple onto physical floorboards.
But hardware partners haven’t been quick on the uptake. The first consumer-oriented Tango phone, Lenovo’s Tango-equipped Phab 2 Pro launched last year, and the Asus ZenFone AR Tango Phone, doesn’t have a release date. It’s been pretty quiet on the Tango front, but we’re hoping to hear more about Tango hardware — and related software — at I/O 2017.