On Thursday, I opined about the opening keynote of Google I/O 2015. I said it was awfully boring and I meant it. Friday was totally different. Google’s advanced technology and platforms team (ATAP) just finished up its keynote during day two of Google I/O and… wow.
The group discussed several new projects, including Project Soli, Project Jacques, Project Abacus, Project Vault and Project Jacquard, and even talked a bit about how it’s using 4K cameras to create new content for Spotlight Stories, which is launching for iOS. All of it left me pretty speechless.
Project Soli is Google’s plan to use gesture radar — yes, it created a small radar chip that can fit into a wearable — to allow more fluid, human interactions with wearables such as smartwatches. You might twist an invisible dial to adjust the time on your smartwatch, for example. It completely alleviates any need to interact with a touch screen or with hardware controls. It’s open source, so we hope to see new wearables using it in the coming years.
Project Jacquard is also wild. It’s Google’s other way to create an interactive wearable, but this time it built the computer into textiles. One example was a smart jacket that, with a swipe down the sleeve, could be used to place a phone call. It works, too, and isn’t juts some pipe dream. In fact, Google announced that Levi’s is a partner.
Project Vault is Google’s take on a smart vault for our Android smartphones. It uses a microSD card slot to provide around 4GB of super secure storage. Inside that vault, you can connect to other Project Vault devices and participate in encrypted conversations. This project, too, is open source, but still very much in experimental stages.
Project Abacus is yet another initiative ATAP is working on, and it works with Vault. Instead of relying on a secure PIN or password to access your phone, Abacus analyzes who is using the phone based on daily habits.
Then, if it believes you’re using the phone because you’re, you know, doing things you usually do, it can decide how secure certain apps should be. You might not need much of a password to access a game, for example, but would need one to access a bank app — depending on how confident the system is that you’re the one actually using your phone.
Finally, Google’s ATAP division gave us a very, very quick update in Project Ara — it’s initiative to create a modular smartphone. Yet, just those few minutes were all it took. We saw, for the first time, a phone being assembled with various modules, including a processor, speakers and more.
In the demo, the presenter left one piece off: the camera. Then, with the phone totally powered on, he added that last camera module. Without a stutter, it was recognized and, live in front of the audience, the presenter was able to take a selfie. Project Ara works and appears to be fully functional. ATAP said to sit tight on new updates on that platform soon.