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Google Releases Cardboard Design Lab To Walk You Through VR Design... In VR

Since debuting at last year's I/O, Google's Cardboard effort hasn't slowed down. Google has been making it easier and easier for manufacturers and developers to hop on board with its vision of virtual reality, and the project got some major updates yesterday. On stage, Google showed off a new Cardboard viewer that accommodates bigger phones (including those running iOS), 360 degree videos, and expeditions for classrooms.

Just last month, Google announced its "Works with Cardboard" program, along with new design guidelines and today Google has released an app that will make those guidelines tangible for VR developers and designers - Cardboard Design Lab.

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Google's ATAP Introduces Project Jacquard To Make Interactive Textiles Easier To Produce And Use

Combining metallic alloys with natural or synthetic threads, Google's ATAP and its industrial partners have created Jacquard yarn. Named for Joseph Marie Jacquard's inventions, the yarn is the basis for ATAP's Project Jacquard, an effort to make it easy for textile makers to weave interactive surfaces into everyday textiles like clothes and furniture. These surfaces would ultimately control things like mobile devices, and perhaps evolve into experiences and functions of their own. Jacquard yarn allows these new surfaces to either be plainly visible or completely hidden from the user so, just like regular yarn, designers can decide exactly how a surface will appear - or not appear, as the case may be.

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Smart Lock Passwords Is Now Going Live On Pre-Android M Devices, Web Interface Is Active Too

One of the relatively hidden treasures of yesterday's I/O announcements and Android M preview release was Smart Lock Passwords, which takes credentials you've signed in with on Chrome or for Android apps and automatically signs you in on those platforms in the future. At launch, there are not many app partners, but developers need only use a now-public API to add support. Today, Lollipop users with relatively recent Google Play Services are finding the new feature enabled on their devices as well.

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[Update: Android Too, And Content Descriptors] Google Play Store Listings Start Showing The New Content Ratings And Interactive Elements On The Web

Back in March, Google announced a few changes to its Play Store listings — a content rating system and a manual approval process for apps. The latter had been in effect for a while, but the former is now showing up on the web version of the Play Store. (I can't see it on my Android phone yet at the time the article is being written.) Edit: It should also show up on Android, on the Play Store version 5.6.6.

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[Android M Feature Spotlight] Android Now Has A Native Flashlight API, Hopefully Negating The Need For OEM-Specific Solutions

While Android Lollipop added a flashlight toggle into Quick Settings, circumventing most third-party torch apps, the function was only accessible in the notification drop-down and as an on/off switch. If you wanted to use the flashlight with morse code, for signaling, or other patterns, you still had to use a separate application and developers of said apps didn't have any clear API to build their software on. They had to hack together solutions for various phones, relying on whatever way the different OEMs had created to access the camera's flash.

With Android M, a new Flashlight API is accessible to developers with CameraManager.setTorchMode(). The flash will be switched on until the app is closed, it is toggled off, or some other app takes over control — flash isn't restricted or exclusive to any apps.

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[I/O 2015] Google's Cardboard Now Works With Phablets And iOS, Pushes For 360 Degree Videos, And Brings Expeditions To Classrooms

What everyone thought was an innocent little experiment from Google during last year's I/O has turned into a full-on Virtual Reality venture from the company. Cardboard, a piece of actual cardboard that you fold and insert your phone in for a make-shift low-cost VR display, has been getting more focus and momentum over the past year with 500 compatible apps and over 1 million viewers sold or given away. That rise culminated with a few announcements at yesterday's I/O keynote.

First, the Cardboard hardware has been redesigned to be simpler to disassemble and put together, as well as work with bigger devices that have screens up to 6" in size.

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[I/O 2015] Brillo And Weave Are The Foundations Of Google's Internet Of Things Push

We're still weeding through the fantasmagoric dump of announcements, features, and all the new things that Google has gifted us with yesterday during its I/O keynote, and we now reach the company's push for a unified and improved Internet of Things ecosystem. It was only a week ago that we heard rumors of this new venture, which seems to be a rethought Android@Home initiative that is adapted for broader purposes, and it's now official.

There are two pillars to Google's new ecosystem: Brillo and Weave. While information on both is still sparse for now, Brillo will be the OS that runs on the smart "things", while Weave is the communications layer between Brillo devices.

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[I/O 2015] Google Maps Is Getting Offline Search And Turn-By-Turn Navigation

Let's face it, Google Maps' current offline functionality sucks. Even saving an area for offline viewing is a relatively hidden option that you either stumble upon by mistake once or that you have to actively remember how to get to when you need it. But Google seems intent on making offline maps better.

It doesn't look like they're changing the way saving offline maps work, which is a shame because it's difficult to find and there's no option to easily download a state or city, but they are adding more functionality that will be accessible when you're offline. During the I/O keynote yesterday, Jen Fitzpatrick, vice president of engineering at Google, announced that both search and turn-by-turn navigation will be possible if you don't have a data connection.

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Smart Lock Now Acts As A Password Manager Using Your Google Account For Both Chrome And Android

Buried in the newly-located Google settings is a curious area called "Smart Lock Passwords." While it doesn't make its function very clear, once you try to sign in with one of the supported apps, it gets much more obvious. Take, for instance, Netflix, one of this feature's launch partners. After signing in as you would normally, Smart Lock will ask if you'd like to store your password for future use.

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Now, at this point, you haven't really seen the fun part. Storing passwords is one thing, but making them useful is another. To demonstrate, I uninstalled the Netflix app and then opened it for the first time.

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[Android M Feature Spotlight] Google Is Now A Top Level Item In System Settings Menu, Previously Only Accessible Via App Icon Shortcut

In the past few versions of Android, you could access your Google account-related settings via an app icon in your app drawer, like the one used in the featured image in this article. From there, you could opt out of ad tracking, look at apps connected to your account, and a variety of other things. In Android M, these have migrated to the system settings menu.

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The "old" method was never very intuitive, so this change makes sense. Given that Google services are so thoroughly integrated into the system, it isn't as if these settings are out of place in the system menus.

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