It has been almost a month since Google Play services 7.8 began rolling out to users, and as of yesterday, it is in wide release to everybody. A previous blog post by Google discussed the big new feature for developers would be the Nearby Messages API, but it turns out there are a couple of other additions worth checking out. In a new post on the Android Developers blog, Google announced a new Mobile Vision API with the ability to detect the presence, orientation, and some details of faces when they are in frame on an active camera.
With the official stable release of Android Studio v1.3 a couple of weeks ago, it's time to begin testing the next string of new features. The first preview release of version 1.4 is now in the Canary channel, and it's sporting some big new features. The Android Tools team has been working on the new theme editor first demonstrated in the I/O session titled What's New in Android Development Tools. There are also new performance monitors for GPU and network activity, a vector asset wizard for turning SVG files into XML vector drawables, and a few new lint checks.
Here is the Google I/O session video cued up to the beginning of the theme editor demo at 36 minutes:
The new theme editor examines the styles in a project and displays visual samples of what controls should look like on a live interface.
Android offers developers a great deal of freedom to experiment with apps and come up with (maybe) the next big thing. Now Google has launched a website where it plans to show off some of the most interesting projects on Android. It's called Android Experiments and there are already 20 apps and demos to check out.
We haven't heard a lot about Project Tango lately, but Google is still working with developers to advance this take on machine vision and sensing technology. As part of its ongoing efforts, the Tango development kit is finally being made available outside the US. It's out today in Canada and South Korea, and will come to ten more countries later this month.
Game developers have a new player in the game engine market, and it's one most of them already know quite well: Autodesk. At GDC Europe, the software company behind some of the most popular 3D modeling tools in the industry – 3ds Max and Maya – has announced the Stingray game engine to compete with the likes of Unreal, Unity 3d, and others. Alongside Autodesk's other design tools, it offers a seamless solution for game developers and designers to rapidly prototype and build high performance, cross-platform games.
Stingray is based on the Bitsquid game engine acquired by Autodesk last year. It supports testing and deployment to Android, iOS, Windows 7 and 8, Oculus Rift DevKit 2, PS4, and Xbox One.
A discussion on Google+ started yesterday by Yahooer (and former Nexus device maintainer) JBQ about modified firmware and app bug/crash reports has started something of a debate: should developers actually heed crash and other logs from users with things such as modified frameworks, or even custom ROMs?
On the extreme end of the spectrum, the popular Xposed module allows you to heavily modify the behavior, appearance, and other aspects of the Android OS. It also unabashedly is a source of compatibility issues in some third-party apps, because it can change, add, or remove things that third-party apps simply aren't going to account for.
Until now, the Play Store beta testing system was tied to Google+ communities or Google Groups, but that's changing now. Google is rolling out two new options for developers to run beta tests that don't rely on Google+.
Microsoft surprised Android developers last year with the launch of a brand new emulator designed for performance and features that aren't available anywhere else. While the initial Preview release only included an image for KitKat, subsequent updates introduced an expanded set of emulator images and some valuable new features. While a high-speed emulator is certainly compelling, many developers still didn't adopt it because it had to be downloaded and installed alongside a very large Visual Studio package, not to mention it was also frustrating to set up for use with other IDEs. Last week, Microsoft unburdened the emulator and released it as a standalone download along with step-by-step instructions to set it up to easily run with Android Studio and Eclipse with ADT.