Google I/O 2015: 9 Things We Loved - InformationWeek

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5/29/2015
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Thomas Claburn
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Google I/O 2015: 9 Things We Loved

Google Photos, for all its mass appeal, is less interesting than Google's more ambitious work. Get ready for touch-aware clothes and gesture-sensing devices.
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(Image: Thomas Claburn)

(Image: Thomas Claburn)

Google lavished attention on Google Photos, the company's renovated cloud photo service and companion mobile app, during its I/O 2015 developer conference, held Thursday and Friday in San Francisco. But Google Photos, for all its mass appeal, is less interesting than Google's more ambitious work.

On Friday, Google's Advanced Technology and Projects Group held a session to discuss recent developments. One of these is Project Jacquard, an effort to create conductive fabric that can detect touch events. Judging by the sample displayed on Thursday, which tracked contact as if it were a touchscreen, and the demonstration on Friday, Google's engineers have succeeded. As a result, we may soon see truly comfortable wearable devices -- touch-enabled jackets that can, for example, interpret a swipe along a sleeve as a command to make a phone call.

Another intriguing research project is Project Soli, a radar sensor for mobile devices that can read a user's hand's shape and motions for gesture-based interaction. Later this year, Google plans to release a prototype board for developers.

Work on Project Ara, Google's attempt to reimagine the smartphone as a set of discrete hardware modules, continues. While it will be another year before we see the results of Google's research, the prospect of greater freedom in terms of design and function, of module programmability, and of vendor opportunity is too tantalizing to ignore.

Google also refreshed its Cardboard VR viewer, extended the Cardboard SDK to iOS, and launched two initiatives to make VR content relevant beyond gaming. Expeditions is a program to provide VR tours to students, so they can see far-off places related to their curriculum. Education could turn out to be a better vehicle to popularize VR than gaming.

A second VR effort, Jump, aims to jumpstart the creation of VR content by promoting the construction of 360-degree cameras, by providing the software to knit images into panoramas, and by distributing such content through YouTube.

If photos are your thing, you may find the new Google Photos compelling, now that it's separated from Google+. Google VP Bradley Horowitz called the service Gmail for photos, even as he stressed the company's effort to ensure privacy. Google Photos allows users to backup and store an unlimited number of photos (16MP or less) for free, so they can be accessed from desktop and mobile devices.

Google can afford to provide free storage because it compresses the images, though the company insists these backups are visually identical to high-resolution originals. Professionals who care about lossless file storage have the option to pay for the Google Drive storage space beyond the 15GB of free space provided at a monthly rate of $10 per TB.

The most disappointing aspect of the conference has been the degree to which Web technology has been relegated to the background. Aside from the release of Polymer 1.0, a JavaScript library for creating interface elements easily, the major announcements have been focused on Android. That's understandable given the popularity of mobile devices, but it's also disheartening because the Web belongs to everyone while Android, despite open elements, belongs to Google.

Here are nine things we loved about this year's Google I/O developer conference. Are there other Google tech advancements you find more compelling than these? Tell us what you think in the comments section below.

Thomas Claburn has been writing about business and technology since 1996, for publications such as New Architect, PC Computing, InformationWeek, Salon, Wired, and Ziff Davis Smart Business. Before that, he worked in film and television, having earned a not particularly useful ... View Full Bio

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nasimson
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nasimson,
User Rank: Ninja
5/30/2015 | 2:57:02 AM
Photos now divorced from Gogle+
I am very happy to see that Google has stopped insisting on Google+, its failed social networking program.

The ability of companies to sense failure, accept failure, acknowledge it and divest resources to other proejcts is what differentiates successful tech companies from failed ones.

I can see why Photos will be a massive hit. Its google-like-simple, its wide-appeal, its free, its integrated with Andoird and Chrome. Its awesome.
SMP
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SMP,
User Rank: Apprentice
5/30/2015 | 6:11:50 AM
Re: Photos now divorced from Gogle+
Google's failures have all arisen from attempts to diverge from Google's core plilosophy od keeping things as simile as possible. Google Wave is a classic example of that. 
progman2000
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progman2000,
User Rank: Ninja
5/30/2015 | 6:58:18 AM
Re: Photos now divorced from Gogle+
This I agree with. I never got the whole Google+ thing. Frankly one of the few duds to have come from Google if you ask me.
Brian.Dean
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Brian.Dean,
User Rank: Ninja
5/30/2015 | 9:29:56 AM
Re: Photos now divorced from Gogle+
Critical mass was already with Facebook and Google+ was not able to quickly gain the mass needed to become a success. Both, Facebook and Google+ are simple to use but, from a user's perspective it takes a lot of work to duplicate history and networks. If a different kind of network (professional) is required then, LinkedIn is available.

Project Tango is interesting and the benefits that it can provide are huge. For example, imagine a user gaining solar panel orientation information relative to the sun. This kind of information would enable a user to go from a limited understanding of power generation to a good understanding in no time.
mejiac
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mejiac,
User Rank: Ninja
5/30/2015 | 9:30:35 AM
Re: Photos now divorced from Gogle+
@progman2000,

Like many things that Google has done in the past, I think Google+ was a proof of concetp that simply proved that you can't reinvent the wheel when it comes to social media. Facebook not only defined social media, but it's at the forefront. I think Google+ was one of those efforts that's more like "lets see what this does?", vs trying to actually be a solid competitor.

But Google+ did provide a lot of leassons learned that probably led the way to the new Google Photos initiative, and defining what users really want. At least for me, being able to easilly back up and retrieve all my family pics is a must have
progman2000
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progman2000,
User Rank: Ninja
5/30/2015 | 9:09:52 PM
Re: Photos now divorced from Gogle+
Speaking of that, I would be curious to know how many people use Google Drive vs. Dropbox. I started with Drive  but have evolved into a full blown Dropbox user. It would not surprise me if Google ended up buying them (if they don't own it aleady lol)
mejiac
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mejiac,
User Rank: Ninja
5/30/2015 | 9:43:33 PM
Re: Photos now divorced from Gogle+
@progman2000,

I actually am a daily user of Google Drive, because of the way it easilly interphases with my gmail. I actually use Google Drive as my cloud solution for all of my devices. So far I love it!!

I do also have a dropbox account, but use the Google Drive more because of the ease of managing files when sending emails
progman2000
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progman2000,
User Rank: Ninja
5/30/2015 | 9:48:16 PM
Re: Photos now divorced from Gogle+
@mejiac,

Yeah that's a good point. I typically use Dropbox for freelancing projects that I never really have the need to email,  but always access when sitting in front of a PC, so Dropbox works great. I should start looking into Drive more. Dropbox has done remarkably well though as a cross platform solution (hmm, should look at investing in them, not sure why I never thought about that before...)
Angelfuego
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Angelfuego,
User Rank: Ninja
5/30/2015 | 9:52:33 PM
Re: Photos now divorced from Gogle+
I am surprised Google hasn't rolled this out a long time ago. That is a lot of stirage! Google Photos is compelling for a consumer like me who likes to capture memories through photos. I don't take selfless but I love to capture special events through photos. I have been a long term user of Snapfish.
progman2000
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progman2000,
User Rank: Ninja
5/30/2015 | 9:54:50 PM
Re: Photos now divorced from Gogle+
Guess I need to start looking at Google Photos. I feel like an idiot because I must be the last one to hear about it. I need a damn personal secretary to keep up anymore...
Angelfuego
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Angelfuego,
User Rank: Ninja
5/30/2015 | 9:54:20 PM
Re: Photos now divorced from Gogle+
@mejiac, that sounds great. I have to look into Google Drive. Sounds like it would work for me and my needs.
Technocrati
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Technocrati,
User Rank: Ninja
5/30/2015 | 9:57:09 PM
Re: Photos now divorced from Gogle+
I am purely Google Drive.   I never want to pay for personal cloud storage myself - I remember seeing somewhere - A video of a guy ranting about the Cloud and how he had no real control over the files he uploaded and was revolting against the "Cloud Tide" and going old school with sticks and DVD's for his most cherished items.

I agree with his stance - but I think I will continue to use a a guarded hybrid approach.
progman2000
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progman2000,
User Rank: Ninja
5/30/2015 | 9:59:46 PM
Re: Photos now divorced from Gogle+
Dropbox gives you up to 1GB without paying for it. I used it to death for freelance work stuff and haven't even hit 500mb yet. I am with you on getting the cloud storage for free but almost feel like I should be subscribing just because of how integral it is for me.
Technocrati
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Technocrati,
User Rank: Ninja
5/31/2015 | 5:34:48 PM
Re: Photos now divorced from Gogle+

@Progman2000    I see.  Well if it works for you that is the main thing.  Some have unrealistic expectations when it comes to these types of services. 

I would probably use it if I had to - especially for as you mention freelance materials.

Angelfuego
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Angelfuego,
User Rank: Ninja
5/30/2015 | 9:57:37 PM
Re: Photos now divorced from Gogle+
@Progman, If if provides you any consolation, I was unaware of Google Photos prior to reading the article as well. I like what I read. I think I will look into using it.
progman2000
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progman2000,
User Rank: Ninja
5/31/2015 | 6:14:05 PM
Re: Photos now divorced from Gogle+
@AngelFuego - thanks. I feel like I am usually wayyyyyy behind on most of these things here. If the first time I'm hearing about it is here I feel like I've failed.
Technocrati
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Technocrati,
User Rank: Ninja
5/30/2015 | 9:59:44 PM
Re: Photos now divorced from Gogle+
No doubt.     Either Google will swallow them up or they probably already own them.  Would not surprise me in the least.
tzubair
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tzubair,
User Rank: Ninja
5/30/2015 | 7:55:48 PM
Re: Photos now divorced from Gogle+
@progman2000: I agree with you. I think Google+ was an attempt by Google to tap in the social media market and it hasn't had any success lately. Google is still pouring in money to make it a hit but I doubt if that's the best option. Sometimes letting go of a product that does not have a huge demand is the right thing to do.
Angelfuego
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Angelfuego,
User Rank: Ninja
5/30/2015 | 10:02:07 PM
Re: Photos now divorced from Gogle+
@tzubair: I agree. Google + does appear for a way for Google to get in on the social media relm. I am surprised that they have not come up with their own social media site all together.
impactnow
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impactnow,
User Rank: Author
5/31/2015 | 12:11:14 AM
Re: Photos now divorced from Gogle+
Gesture sensing devices sound very aggressive voice and and auto correct are still not perfected. The vault sounds very appealing however for all our digital storage.
tzubair
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tzubair,
User Rank: Ninja
5/31/2015 | 10:32:32 AM
Re: Photos now divorced from Gogle+
"I am surprised that they have not come up with their own social media site all together."

@Angelfuego: Google+ is indeed Google's own social media project which was launched 4 years ago. The main reason it has not been very succesful is because it hasn't been able to build a large user base as compared to Facebook. People do not feel any additional advantage of being on Google+ and leave Facebook.
Angelfuego
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Angelfuego,
User Rank: Ninja
5/31/2015 | 2:12:09 PM
Re: Photos now divorced from Gogle+
@tzubair The fact that Google + has been around 4 years and my friends &I didn't know about it , is just another testament that Google+ did not expand or take off with a widespread audience. Facebook beats Google+ by a long short, in terms of social media. I think the statistics speak for themselves. Although I think it had potential, it just didn't really catch on for one reason or another.
Technocrati
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Technocrati,
User Rank: Ninja
5/30/2015 | 2:36:25 PM
Re: Photos now divorced from Gogle+

I agree, though I didn't mind Google +   but there are too many social networking efforts going on - I hope they keep it operational ( I think I would rather it than Facebook) , I would use it (Google + ) if  I had too.

progman2000
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progman2000,
User Rank: Ninja
5/30/2015 | 9:07:25 PM
Re: Photos now divorced from Gogle+
Isn't their latest thing Google Circles? I honesty don't know, I periodically get hit up by them about it because I am hardcore on everything Google, but for some reason when it comes to social networking they seem to miss the mark.
StaceyE
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StaceyE,
User Rank: Ninja
5/31/2015 | 3:02:06 PM
Re: Photos now divorced from Gogle+
@nasimson

I agree, it is good that they acknowledge that Google+ was a flop. Nice try though...
nasimson
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nasimson,
User Rank: Ninja
5/30/2015 | 3:13:56 AM
Google's Celebration Of Diversity

 


Google's diverse eco system of more than 4,000 devices is no blessing to developers. The variety of these devices offer little diversity beacuse these are marginally different. Furthermore the testing becomes a nightmare as what works on one model does not work on the rest.

 

mejiac
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mejiac,
User Rank: Ninja
5/30/2015 | 9:31:51 AM
Re: Google's Celebration Of Diversity
@nasimson,

A share your comment, but I got to hand it to Google for being bold, being brave enough to push the envelop, even if at the end the project is shelved.

 
Technocrati
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Technocrati,
User Rank: Ninja
5/30/2015 | 2:03:38 PM
Re: Google's Celebration Of Diversity

Nothing really caught my eye in this year's Google I/O  but I did like Project vault - this looks interesting and promising .

SunitaT0
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SunitaT0,
User Rank: Ninja
5/30/2015 | 3:12:38 PM
Re: Google's Celebration Of Diversity
@Technocrati: The gesture system is nice too, not to mention the wearable jacket. I think Google I/O was successful in showing what we are about to do in 1-2 years time. 
mak63
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mak63,
User Rank: Ninja
5/31/2015 | 5:23:10 PM
Re: Google's Celebration Of Diversity
@Technocrati. I agree, Project Vault looks promising and interesting. It's really amazing that they can put a tiny computer in a microSD card. I like the idea that you can use your own (kinda) OS in your phone or computer, and have encrypted communication with another person. I wonder if the Vault will be misused for people with not all that good intentions.
Technocrati
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Technocrati,
User Rank: Ninja
5/31/2015 | 5:41:21 PM
Re: Google's Celebration Of Diversity

@mak63    You raise some great questions.   I agree.  It really is amazing that a computer can now fit on an SD card.  It takes a lot for us to be impressed today, but this certainly does it.

 

I had not even considered the implications as of yet, but now that you mention them - you are right again, this type of computing power in the wrong hands could potentially wreak havoc !

 

Ironic that computing expansion is making the World better and (far) worse by degrees.

Brian.Dean
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Brian.Dean,
User Rank: Ninja
5/30/2015 | 9:51:35 AM
Re: Google's Celebration Of Diversity
That is a great point. Software tends to follow hardware that is in mass availability in the market. If the majority of users in the market have 2GB of ram then, software that works on 2GB will be the software that we consider as great.

Maybe, Project Era could change the relationship and economics of software and hardware. If great software is available that requires 3GB for instance, then, a user will only need to change their memory module. If software requires 4 back-facing cameras then again, modules can be changed. The PC era is back!

However, software is still the most important aspect of the system. It will be the software developers that enable an environment that can deliver maximum value through software that is collaborative. In a business, procurement and sales are different functions and working together, the two functions create value. In the same way, software will need to function on both the 4-camera device that will capture information and the 3GB device that will process information. 
SunitaT0
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SunitaT0,
User Rank: Ninja
5/30/2015 | 3:19:31 PM
Re: Google's Celebration Of Diversity
@Brian: But project ara parts need to be available soon. This thing is exciting because it will do away with all those mobile manufacturers unless they can come up with something better. 
mejiac
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mejiac,
User Rank: Ninja
5/30/2015 | 9:35:34 AM
"Back to the Future" anyone?
For those science fiction lovers, we all well remember The Back to the Future trilogy. The 2nd part left a very solid impression because of the future technology that it showcased (I'm still waiting for my Matel Hoverboard).

When I read this article, I inmediatly flashed back to the jacket that Marty McFly had that with the push of a button, it both adjusted and was also able to dry himself.

So as soon as google enables a way to insert a blow dryer in the wearble T-Shirt...I'm IN!!!
StaceyE
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StaceyE,
User Rank: Ninja
5/31/2015 | 3:04:48 PM
Re: "Back to the Future" anyone?
@majiec

I thought of Marty's jacket too. I'll be in line for the shirt as well, when it gets the blow dry technology... ;)
H@mmy
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[email protected],
User Rank: Ninja
5/31/2015 | 4:19:06 PM
Amazing
Amazing Stuff ! Each year they are coming up with super exxciting and interesting things. Another promising event this year too.
Charlie Babcock
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Charlie Babcock,
User Rank: Author
6/1/2015 | 3:12:34 PM
Disaggregating the smart phone...
The  smart phone is so smart because it uses a mobile computer for functions that have little to do with phone messaging. Just as these functions were gathered together into a market leading iPhone, they could be disaggregated into a set of devices, discreetely connected together by one operating system, and using the phone's display and keyboard. That way, you could talk to someone at your destination at the same time you were using GPS to find it. Project Ara is most interesting, to me. 
Thomas Claburn
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Thomas Claburn,
User Rank: Author
6/1/2015 | 3:34:01 PM
Re: Disaggregating the smart phone...
I'm looking forward to finding out whether Google can make modularity competitive on price. I assume that having multiple components magnifies cost, since each module needs to show a profit. With a traditional phone, there's only one profit margin to consider.
Li Tan
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Li Tan,
User Rank: Ninja
6/4/2015 | 10:42:06 AM
Re: Disaggregating the smart phone...
I think that's the strategy here - by disaggregating the smart phone, Google can gain better marginal profit.
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