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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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. 
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!!!
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.

 
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
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.
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.
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. 
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.

 

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.
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