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Google I/O 2016 what to expect: Android N, Google Chirp, Android VR and more

by Brandon Russell | May 17, 2016May 17, 2016 10:07 am PST

Android N, Google Chirp, Android VR, these are just a few things we expect Google to talk about at its developer conference on Wednesday, May 18. What else might the company discuss? Well, unless the search giant is going to introduce a surprise follow-up to Glass, we pretty much know everything Google has planned.

Not to worry, we have a primer to prepare you for the festivities. Even though we have a pretty good idea of what to expect, there’s a very good chance Google will introduce something unexpected; perhaps a messaging service that’s actually good, or maybe even a camera app that isn’t the SLOWEST. THING. EVER.

We’ll be up in San Francisco on Wednesday mingling with the tech elite. Here’s what to expect before then.

Android N

Technically Android N has already been unveiled but we’ll likely hear many new details in just a few days. We know that it’s going to feature multi-window support and tweaks to the notification shade, but what other big changes will Google going to make? That’s a little harder to pin down.

There’s been a lot of talk about Android’s alternative to 3D Touch and there have also been hints at some big VR capabilities, which makes sense if Google is going to introduce a new, better standalone headset (more on that in a bit). But aside from that, we know as much as you do when it comes to unannounced features coming to Android N.

In addition to the possibility of revealing new features, many people are anticipating Google to unveil the software’s final name—Team Nutella! The search giant typically doesn’t share this kind of information until the fall, but with Android N having been revealed a few months ago, we might learn the name sooner than you think.

Google Chirp

Google Now is already an important part of Android, so why not take that technology and apply it to stationary items around your house? We’ve been hearing about Google potentially unveiling an Amazon Echo competitor for months, and maybe it becomes official at this year’s I/O. We’ll wait and see.

According to a recent Recode report, the device will allegedly be a refashioned OnHub and respond to user queries for web searches, reminders, timers and more. (As a current OnHub owner, I’m really hoping these capabilities are added to my existing device though I doubt that’s going to happen.)

Unfortunately, whatever Google has cooking up isn’t expected to be available until later this year, maybe even early next year. The Echo has gone on to become a surprising success for Amazon but if Google can find a way to reach its existing Android user base, the Chirp has the potential to be huge.

Android VR

Google is already very familiar with the world of virtual reality but it’s going to get even more serious with Android VR. And, yes, it’s going to go beyond the charming simplicity of Cardboard.

In addition to unveiling a new VR platform based on Android—something we heard about months ago—Google will also reportedly introduce a standalone headset with a built-in screen. This device will apparently be less powerful than the Vive or Rift, likely somewhere in the region of Samsung’s Gear VR. Just, you know, without relying on a user’s existing smartphone.

It’s highly unlikely Android VR—something we saw referenced on Google’s website—will be available anytime soon, but I’m sure Google will be more than happy to divulge details, especially with so many other competing VR platforms (Vive, Oculus Rift, PlayStation VR) already announced/available.

Messaging

Longtime Android users know Hangouts isn’t very good, and rumor has it Google is finally going to rectify that with a brand new platform. And, oh, it’ll apparently feature chatbots, those annoyingly smart robots that can tell you the weather and book hotel reservations.

At the end of last year, the Wall Street Journal said Google was in the process of building a WhatsApp-like service that heavily emphasizes chatbot technology. “Users will be able to text friends or a chatbot, which will scour the web and other sources for information to a question,” the WSJ wrote.

With Google introducing Gboard for iOS, it’s easy to see how Google might implement smarter technology into its upcoming messaging application. Since Google I/O is mainly about the developer community, the conference should attract plenty of developers to build chatbots of their own. If Zuckerberg can do it, so too can Sundar Pichai.

Project Tango

“Google’s Project Tango may get a mainstream push at I/O conference next week” was just one of many recent stories we’ve published about the technology, suggesting Google has big plans to talk about. While it’s mostly been a developer toy, Google wants to give Project Tango a “mainstream” push starting next week, with the possibility of a Lenovo-built phone coming this summer.

If you’re unfamiliar, Project Tango uses computer vision to enable mobile devices to detect and map the world around them. As we’ve seen in demos, the technology is particularly adept at mapping indoor locations, which could be great for Google Maps and whatever VR projects Google is working on.

“Google is also reportedly working on an online sharing feature, which would allow it to eventually stitch together one giant 3D map of every indoor space on Earth,” TechnoBuffalo wrote earlier this month. If the technology does indeed run on a wide range of mobile devices, every last corner of indoor space should be mapped in no time.

Chrome OS

There have been signs Chrome OS and Android are going to merge, and with Alphabet executives already hinting at the possibility, it’s very likely we’ll see a combination of the two as early as next year. What might such a marriage look like? Well, that’s note entirely clear.

According to a report from late last year, Google has been working to unify Chrome OS with Android for the past several months, with the ultimate outcome of creating a version of Android that can run on PCs. We still don’t know what that means exactly but with Android N introducing more powerful productivity features, perhaps we’ll see Android apps become a part of Chrome OS, with the possibility of some kind of rebrand in the pipeline.

Was the Pixel C a harbinger for Google’s Chrome OS/Android hybrid? Perhaps. Now, it’s a question of how far along the supposed hybrid software is. That earlier tease of Android apps running on Chrome OS could just be the beginning.

Android Auto, self-driving cars and more

Google hasn’t done much with Android Auto over recent months but with self-driving technology very much a part of the company’s future, we could hear more about the two on Wednesday. I have no clue what kind of new information Google might unveil, but it’s very likely the two will go hand-in-hand.

Meanwhile, what of Project Fi and Android Wear? Will Google talk about Project Ara? And what about those rumored Nexus devices? All will be revealed very soon.

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Brandon Russell

Brandon Russell likes to rollerblade while listening to ACDC.

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