There were plenty of features announced at Google I/O yesterday regarding Android and some of those new things are meant for Android Auto - Google's car dashboard system. The most exciting of them is the fact that you will no longer need an Auto-enabled vehicle to be able to benefit from the simplified car-friendly interface while you're driving. You can also learn more about the features in our video, below.
In the next few months, Android Auto will get several interesting additions. First is Waze compatibility with the app running on your dashboard and keeping you in the loop of hazards ahead and potential delays and problems. Second is OK Google hotwording which will activate voice commands when you say "OK Google" instead of requiring you to press a button to start listening.
You might have noticed that there aren't a lot of Android TV boxes around. Aside from the original Nexus Player, the much-recommended NVIDIA SHIELD, and the generally regrettable Razer Forge TV, only a few somewhat random cable boxes and some Sony televisions are using Google's living room version of its mobile OS. But there's a surprise entry announced at Google I/O 2016: Chinese manufacturer Xiaomi. Its "Mi Box" Android TV device ticks all of the hardware boxes, but what's even more surprising is that it's coming to the United States.
I had a quick sit-down with leads on the Android TV and Google Cast team today, and while it's not exactly a huge deal, one of Android TV's oddly lacking features came up: app star ratings and reviews. They don't exist on Android TV.
Well, unsurprisingly, the Android TV team is very much aware of this. Sascha Prüter, Program Manager of Android TV, confirmed that Google is working on the feature, and that challenges on implementation in the area of user experience have been the hold-up. Admittedly, that does seem like a good reason - how are Android TV users, especially those not in the habit of using their phone as a remote, going to input text in an app review?
If you've read any of my articles on Android Auto, you'll know that my thoughts - for the sake of brevity - are that it's just kind of OK. This is because Android Auto's philosophy of projection via smartphone over USB and Bluetooth is inherently limited in what it can actually do with a vehicle. And so, many of you have asked on Auto articles I've written in the past: "Why doesn't Google just build an Android Car OS?" WhileGoogle may not have been listening per se, they definitely had the same idea, and have created just that. You can also check out our video quickly going over the concept below.
Android TV didn't get much screen time at the opening keynote of the Google I/O developer conference, but there were a few goodies mentioned for upcoming builds. Specifically, VP of engineering David Burke showed off a new picture-in-picture mode that allows users to continue a streaming video while doing something else in the main ATV user interface, such as performing a voice search or downloading an app.
One of the more exciting revelations at the opening keynote of Google I/O 2016 is "Assistant," Google's upcoming expansion of its search tools. Explaining exactly what Assistant is and isn't is a bit tricky, because it both integrates a lot of existing Google technology and spills over into other upcoming services, like Google Home and Allo. Essentially, it's a new way to interact with Google Search, with the intention being that you "speak" with it in a more human fashion.
Amazon Echo is about to have company. As the New York Times reported, Google has a competing device in the works, and it has the full weight of the search giant's natural language processing behind it. If you haven't already heard the name, you could probably take a guess. It's Google Home.
Google posted at least some of the events and sessions for developers to check out at the Google I/O trade conference already. It looks like the Big G wasn't quite finished ironing out the details, because several new sessions have been added to the official website as of today. Here are a few of them that are particularly relevant to Android:
Yesterday we reported on a rumor that Google would unveil a new "Android VR" platform at Google I/O next week, along with a standalone headset. Today we're seeing what looks like additional evidence. Folks who sign into the Google Play Developer Console are seeing Android VR alongside Android Wear, Android TV, and Android Auto.
About two months ago, when Amazon announced two new Alexa-powered devices, the Echo Dot and Amazon Tap, many of you voiced the same thought: this is the kind of product Google should be working on. With "OK Google" commands being some of the most powerful voice search and personal assistants on the market, Google shouldn't have a lot of trouble inviting itself into your home and living room or making automation independent from your phone and more integrated with your life.
At the time, we knew (check Artem's comment) that Google was indeed working on an Echo competitor, codenamed "Chirp," and we were rooting for a Google I/O announcement.