The 5 Most Important Things Google Announced Today

Photo: Courtesy Google.
Today, in Mountain View, CA, Google gave us a preview of the biggest new things we can expect from the company over the next 12 months. The announcements may not surprise you: Google is getting smarter, more useful, and it wants to integrate itself throughout your home.

How's it going to do that? Read on for the five most important things Google announced today at its developers conference.

Google Assistant
Instead of just being reactive to your search queries with Google Search or predicting information you’ll find useful with Google Now, Google is taking things one step further with Google Assistant. Assistant lets you have a conversation with Google to help you get things done. For example, you could ask Google Assistant, “What movies are playing nearby?” It would then show you three movies you’d enjoy that are playing nearby. You could then say, “Let’s bring the kids this time,” and it would refine there results to family friendly movies and ask if you want four tickets to any of those titles. You can reply, “Sure,” and it buys the tickets and gives you a code to show at the door.

Google Home
Google is taking on Amazon’s popular Echo smart home device with a gadget of its own: Google Home. Available later this year, it does a lot of what the Echo does, but is powered by Google. It lets you enjoy music and entertainment around the house, manage everyday tasks, and help get things done, all through voice commands and conversations.

The device itself is small — you can hold it in the palm of your hand — white, and circular in shape, with a slanted top embedded with four colored LEDs. The bottom half of it is a speaker grille.

You can use Home to set alarms and timers, manage to-do and shopping lists, connect with smart home products (including Nest devices), and eventually, do things like order dinner or book an Uber (once developers start integrating with it). You can also use it stream music and ask it any questions you’d normally ask Google. It can even help you retrieve upcoming travel itinerary and package delivery information — things you’d normally find in Google Now.

Allo is Google’s new smart messaging app. It learns from your interactions over time to make conversations easier, more expressive, and more productive, so you don’t have to type as much to get your point across.

One convenient feature it has is built-in smart replies (something you might recognize if you use Google’s Inbox app). If someone asks “Busy later?” it automatically shows two responses you can tap on: “I’m busy” or “I’m in!” The more you use Allo, the better it will become, suggesting things that are unique to the way you chat.

The app also includes an Incognito Mode. All chats are encrypted, but in Incognito Mode, the conversation is encrypted end-to-end and lets you expire chats. That ensures that they’re deleted from your phone completely after a period of time.

Allo can also identify what’s in photos, which it uses to create conversational (and relevant) response suggestions. It also has built-in games, like one where you guess movie titles based on emoji, and lets you adjust the font size of your responses, allowing you to whisper or yell without using all caps.
Android N
Google also elaborated on its next major mobile release, Android N (what the "N" stands for is still up in the air). Coming out this fall, it’s got a more seamless software update system (hooray), improved security, and a couple other notable features:

— Quick Switch, for quickly swapping between two open apps.
— The ability to reply to messages without launching the messaging app and the ability to change notification settings for an app just by long-pressing the app notification itself.
— And perhaps most importantly, Daydream. It's Google’s platform for high-quality mobile virtual reality. New Daydream-ready smartphones will work with a new Cardboard-like headset design and a small oval-shaped controller. With the controller, you can navigate in virtual-reality apps and games (you can even download VR apps in VR with Daydream), and those apps and games include titles from The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, EA, Ubisoft, and Google titles, like Google Play Movies, Google Photos, and YouTube.

Android Wear 2.0
And of course, Google’s event wouldn’t have been complete without an update to its wearable platform, Android Wear. The improvements are pretty straightforward. When it launches this fall, you’ll be able to see glance-able data from any app, right on your watch face. A smart reply feature will let you respond to messages with auto suggestions (like with the Allo app), or respond using your handwriting on your watch’s screen or a new keyboard backed by machine learning. Fitness tracking will also be easier. Watch apps can be standalone, so you can leave your phone at home and it can start tracking your workout instantly once you start a run, for example, thanks to automatic activity recognition. You’ll be able to listen to music whether or not you’ve got your phone and sync data across various fitness apps more easily as apps integrate with Google’s Fit API.

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