Google introduced a 7-inch tablet device dubbed Nexus 7, a cloud-connected Android-powered streaming media device called Nexus Q, and a new version of its Android mobile operating system at Google I/O, the company's annual developers' conference, in San Francisco on Wednesday.
Google co-founder Sergey Brin interrupted a review of a new Google+ Events service to demonstrate Project Glass, the company's experimental augmented reality glasses. The chaotic, exhilarating demo involved a parachute jump over San Francisco onto the roof of Moscone West, with video from those wearing the glasses piped onto the conference projection screen. The skydivers made their way to the auditorium amid raucous applause.
Brin announced the Google Glass Explorer Edition, a $1,500 prototype for available for pre-order to U.S.-based I/O attendees, slated to ship early next year.
As predicted in reports prior to Google I/O, the Nexus 7 Google-branded tablet is made by Asus. Challenging Amazon's Kindle Fire and Apple's iPad, the Nexus 7 features a 1280 x 800 display, an Nvidia Tegra 3 chipset with a quad-core CPU, and a 12-core GPU, a feature that will make it well suited for calculation-intensive applications like games and video.
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The Nexus 7, which runs Jelly Bean, includes a front-facing camera, WiFi, Bluetooth, and NFC connectivity, and boasts 9 hours of video playback. It's the first Android device to ship with Chrome for Android as its default browser. It weighs 340 grams, about the weight of a paperback book.
Nexus Q is a spherical consumer electronics device for playing audio and video streamed from Google Play. Google calls it a social streaming device because anyone with content stored in Google's cloud, not just the device's owner, can use the device to stream content.
Google is now taking orders for the $199 Nexus 7 and the $299 Nexus Q, both of which are scheduled to ship in July. Conference attendees were offered both these devices, along with a Samsung Galaxy III.
Jelly Bean (Android 4.1) represents what Android product management director Hugo Barra described as an effort to make "things simple, beautiful, and really smart." Android's smarts were on display during the keynote presentation, when Barra revealed Google mobile search improvements that represent an answer to Apple's Siri voice assistant.
In keeping with its preference for food-related naming conventions, Google is referring to Jelly Bean's user experience improvements as "Project Butter." The initiative encompasses rendering framework and touch interface improvements that result in more fluid interactions. "In Jelly Bean, we anticipate where your finger will be at the time of screen refresh," explained Google engineering director Dave Burke.
Android 4.1 includes an intelligent keyboard that predicts words before you type them, support for offline voice typing, 18 new input languages, and accessibility improvements. The Android camera in Jelly Bean improves the process of reviewing photos. Android Beam, the inter-device communication mechanism, lets users send photos and videos by tapping two Android devices together and pair NFC-enabled devices the same way.
The Google search experience on mobile has changed dramatically. Google will show cards that display answers to queries. The traditional list of search results can still be accessed by swiping the card away.
Google also announced the Android Platform Developer Kit, a toolkit for Android hardware makers. "PDK enables Android OEMs and chipmakers to innovate in parallel with Google," said Barra. The company also added new features to Google Play, the company's Android store, including app encryption for paid apps and free cloud-to-device messaging through a service called Google Cloud Messaging.
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