Google's Coming Home, Among Other Developments

Google yesterday introduced Google Home, a rival to Amazon’s Echo and whatever Apple is dreaming up as the next iteration of Siri, along with a bevy of other products-in-the-making at its 10th annual developers conference, Google I/O.

“It is the most important new venture by the search company, which is repositioning itself as less a tool you go to and more an assistant that is sometimes visible but always present,” writes David Streitfeld for the New York Times.

“We want users to have an ongoing two-way dialogue with Google,” the company’s CEO, Sundar Pichai, told about 7,000 attendees in his keynote address launching the three-day event. “We have started becoming truly conversational.”



“Google Home lets you enjoy music and entertainment, manage everyday tasks, and ask Google questions,” reports Chris Smith for BGR. “Google Home is supposed to become one of the most important devices in your house, able to control a variety of gadgets, including Chromecast, Wi-Fi speakers, Google Nest, and other devices.”

But the hed over Will Oremus’ blog post for Slate is ominous: “The Google Home Is Like the Amazon Echo, Only Smarter. And Maybe Creepier.” After reporting that Pichai credited Amazon’s Echo for “creating a lot of excitement in this space,” Oremus tells us why Home has at least two big advantages over Amazon’s Alexa virtual assistant. It boils down to the fact that Google already knows you pretty well, inside and out.

“Don’t forget that virtually everything Google does has a shadow purpose that it doesn’t get talked much about, which is to collect data on users’ behavior and harness it to build a hyper-detailed profile of their likes, dislikes, buying habits, and non-buying habits,” Oremus writes.

Google also announced a new messaging app called Allo (“pronounced like ‘aloe’ and not like ‘allo, guv'nor!’” Dieter Bohn tells us in The Verge). Its “secret weapon” is the built-in Google assistant. 

“You can set up a conversation with @google and ask it all sorts of questions. It'll respond with the stuff you've come to expect from typing into a Google search box — but it'll also engage in a bit of a conversation with you. It'll suggest further searches, and give you ways to do things that Google can do — like book a table with OpenTable," writes Bohn. It will be available for both iOS and Android in the late summer.

Meanwhile, “Google is developing the next version of Android specifically with virtual reality in mind, so that every smartphone running its operating system will be a VR headset right out of the box,” Wired’s David Pierce reports. “And it’s created Daydream, a standard and brand that encompasses everything Google’s working on with VR.”

USA Today’s Marco della Cava points out that “virtual reality is making a big push beyond gaming of late, with recently announced agreements between VR content companies and major sports leagues and big concert promotors, who want to bring live events to the masses through VR.”

Over at Quartz, Alice Truong and Michael J. Coren give us a summary of every last detail Google announced in its “barrage of product news,” from the specifics of Android N — the next version of Google’s mobile operating system — to Firebase, a back-end developer service. It enables developers “to group users based on criteria they care about and target them with notifications and campaigns.”

“Many of the technologies,” report Richard Waters and Hannah Kuchler for Financial Times, “will not be available to users for months or even years, though Google promised that several companies would sell VR hardware based on its technology before the end of 2016.”

“It is mostly vaporware,” Gartner analyst Brian Blau tells them. “He said showing off advanced technology plans like this was a sign of heightened pressure on Google and its rivals to demonstrate they were taking the lead in important new markets,” Waters and Kuchler write.

It was a “mind-blowing yet quirky day right from the start,” reports Katy Steinmetz for Time about the event in an music amphitheater adjacent to Google’s headquarters in Mountain View, Calif. “Two musicians, placed in what looked like giant crows’ nests, played strings that ran the length of the forum, stretching from their perches to the metalwork above the stage where [CEO Pichai] would soon appear. The tune was a number by Yann Tiersen, whose jaunty French folk music has found a wide and loving audience through films like Amélie.

“The video that followed took that vibe and gave it a Four Loko,” writes Steinmetz, who goes on to detail yet more off-the-wall “reflections of what Google views as its corporate psyche.” 

You can watch live streams of individual sessions that sound a bit more staid — “Deep Dive Into The Realtime Database” or “Codeless Middleware: From Paradox To Reality” here. The conference runs through tomorrow.

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