Kotlin has been emerging as a programming language to keep a close eye on. It started as an internal project at JetBrains back in 2011 and was released early the next year. Taking inspiration from both classic C-based languages and a number of modern alternatives like Scala, Kotlin is branded as a "pragmatic" language and modeled to encourage smarter coding and easier readability. JetBrains has been tiptoeing up to an official v1.0 release for a few months, and today, it's finally here.
While it's still a fledgling language, Kotlin has earned some enthusiastic supporters among the Android development community, even a few Googlers have discussed using it in projects.
The Android Studio team has been kicking out preview builds at a fevered pace since the first 2.0 preview hit the scene near the end of November, and it's finally paying off as the first real Beta is now rolling out. (The first beta has an issue, so this is actually labeled Beta 2). The jump from v1.5 to v2.0 is enough to suggest that this could be the most ambitious update to the IDE since it was launched, but the feature list confirms it. We've already covered some of the biggest features: instant run, GPU profiling, and a massively faster and more functional emulator.
HTC raised more than a few eyebrows when it announced the Vive, a VR headset that ostensibly competes with the more well-known Oculus Rift. But far from being some one-off excursion like the Re Camera, the Vive has gained critical acclaim from those who've had access to its pre-production developer units, and HTC's partnership with Valve gives the company an in with one of the gaming industry's most influential players. At CES 2016, HTC revealed a new model, the Vive Pre, with some very interesting additions to the original.
On top of some ergonomic adjustments for more comfortable wear, the Vive Pre adds a front-facing camera to the design, which allows for easy viewing of the real world without having to remove the headset.
Android's rapid rise to the top of the mobile market was accompanied by a number of legal battles, and perhaps none of them was so central and so contentious as Oracle versus Google. The fight over the legality of patents and copyrights in some of the portions of Android that used allegedly proprietary Oracle-owned Java software has been raging since 2010, eventually being considered for review by the US Supreme Court before being bounced back to the lower appeals court. The fight was a constant, and sometimes dramatic, part of legal software news at one point.
Apparently Google is as tired of dealing with the legal headache as we are of writing about it, because the company has confirmed that Android will do away with the remaining Java APIs starting with Android N, which will probably be released sometime in 2016.
Now that Android Studio is faring quite well for its core necessities, the tools team is tackling some of the bigger challenges. A couple of weeks ago, they featured a new ability to deploy a limited set of changes to apps without fully restarting them. This week they're shooting to take on one of the longest and most requested items on the list: a faster and more useful emulator.
The biggest boost to speed can be seen while running Android 6.0 on the new emulator. This comes from newly added support for Symmetric Multi-Processing (SMP), which allows the emulator to take full advantage of multiple processor cores on a computer.
Every developer has gone through a long afternoon of making a bunch of tiny changes to their app, rebuilding and running it, then repeating the same steps just to get back to a point where they can test the changes they just made. Forget it, those days are done! Android Studio 2.0 just hit the Canary channel and its headlining feature allows you to push changes from your computer to an app while it's running and see results right away. Also joining the latest release is a brand new GPU Profiler tool that can make OpenGL ES development significantly easier.
The Instant Run feature has been mentioned previously during Google I/O 2015, but it has been under wraps until now.
Google's Chrome development team regularly implements new APIs to extend the possibilities for web apps to behave more like their native counterparts. The most recent addition to the Chrome dev channel allows web developers to use Bluetooth to communicate with nearby hardware. This could be used for things like an online fitness tracker that gets data from a heart rate monitor or for a controller to drive a Sphero, all without installing a native app.
These things are possible with the new Web Bluetooth API. Still in the early stages of development, this allows a web application to query for Bluetooth devices based on their capabilities, then pass messages back and forth with little or no friction.
Android Studio v1.5 just rolled out to the stable channel today and it's absolutely packed with a feature. Truth is this release was mostly focused on bug fixes, performance improvements, and other fine tuning. Of course, for a tool used in professional software development, those certainly aren't bad things. Take a look as Reto Meier explains the changes and trolls teases Android developers with a mystery box that surely must include new language support, or a fully functional theme editor, or... something more likely.
The one notable addition can be found in the Memory Profiler. It's now capable of detecting leaked activities while testing.
Google has already talked about new features in the upcoming Android Wear 1.4 update, but so far the only place you can experience them is on the new LG Watch Urbane 2nd Edition LTE. Updates for other watches are pending, but in the meantime developers can get ready for the new version with the API 23 SDK, which Google is currently in the process of rolling out.