One of the most important events for developers is Google I/O. At the event Google not only shows off its most remarkable projects, but also demonstrates new features and what we can expect in the future. This year was no exception, and in particular there were many great improvements for mobile development.
Some of our highlights from the event were:
Offline support for many of Google’s tools. Thinking about users from countries where the Internet connection is slow, intermittent and expensive, Google has developed offline support for some of its tools. For example we can mark our favorite videos on YouTube to keep them available when we don’t have access to the Internet. A similar option will be available for Google Chrome to store web pages. For Google Maps we will not only have the option to search for places and store maps but also have the option to get voice directions offline. This is a huge improvement that will make many users very happy around the world. This option will be available later this year.
Improvements for Android Wear. The smartwatch has come a long way from an unnecessary geek gadget to a promising future accessory. Particularly with Apple launching its Apple Watch last year, Google doesn’t want to be left behind, and continues to improve the performance and capabilities of its Android Wear watches. For example, with Android Wear users can see the time without having to shake their wrist. This is called “always-on display”. With this feature the watch, instead of turning off the screen to save power, activates the “ambient mode”. In this mode the background color is limited, and only shows hours and minutes. But this year Google announced that developers will also be able to show information in this mode. This will be critical for useful, glanceable information, that users want to see. This feature will be available for Android Wear devices running Android 5.1 or higher.
Project Tango and virtual reality. Another interesting topic was the presentation of the Tango project, which is a device that can recognize the surrounding world based on sensors and calculations. It has the capability of motion tracking, area learning, and depth perception – so it can track its relative position in 3D. These capabilities open tremendous possibilities for developing new tools and services. For example, in entertainment this has a range of possibilities for gamers (imagine a shooter game with this device). It also has very serious potential applications – for example building devices to help blind people. Currently it is only available in the US, but Google is working to make it available in other countries. You can own one of these devices for US $512.
Google also presented a range of other interesting topics during I/O 2015, such as improvements to its Firebase service, which will now work with offline data. Meanwhile for iOS developers CocoaPods will help to use Google API’s easily. And finally, for the next Android M they announced a simpler way for users to manage what data and information applications can access.
Now we’re eagerly awaiting to see what Apple has prepared for its Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) which will take place soon, on June 8-12.