Google IO: A Piece of Cardboard, Android Wearables & Material Design
This year the PMG development team had the extraordinary privilege of attending Google IO. The most anticipated session was the keynote ceremony headed by Sundar Pichai which unveiled several new areas that Google is going to be expanding into…
As you all may have heard Google wearables are here and they’re not going anywhere. At first, these devices just seemed like another gimmick but the wearables team announced some pretty cool features. Most important was the “bridge” that will occur between your phone and wearables. In short, the Google Wear SDK allows apps that are installed on your phone to seamlessly push notifications to the wearable, in this case, a watch. One prime benefit to this was you don’t have to keep fumbling with your phone every time you get a notification. For instance, if you receive a text message from someone you can view and reply to it via your smart watch. There is a downside however since Google Wear requires an Android phone running 4.3 or higher so Apple and older Android devices will be out of luck.
Soon Google will be in your car — and maybe driving it too! Google announced that they have partnered with over 25 car brands to introduce the new Android Auto which allows your favorite Android Apps to run on in-car navigation systems. While the SDK for this is still private it did garner a lot of attention by developers at the conference.
Googles new L design was a huge announcement because it introduced new components and animations to the Polymer library including Paper Elements. Paper Elements are a set of polymer elements and animations that allow designers to rapidly build and create rich UX. This includes eye-catching animations that are automatically bound to your favorite widgets. Paper elements, however, are an extension of a much larger design pattern called Material Design — the new buzzword of 2014. Material design encompasses the way users and developer interact with their applications by providing a structured yet customizable way to build out interfaces.
ATAP is Googles bleeding edge R&D department and they have been strenuously working on Project Tango. A tablet that can capture your environment using real-time 3D mapping. The demo was very impressive as we saw two developers literally reconstruct the building they work in by just walking around and pointing the tablet at noticeable objects in the environment. This has serious implications for improving the way our devices respond and notify us, powering autonomous robots or even providing a mechanism for the blind to navigate through areas they never could before.
Googles cloud platform got some huge overhauls over the past year the Compute App Engine has gotten faster and the interfaces to manage and process your data in parallel has gotten more intuitive. This year Google took it a step further by introducing Google Cloud Debugger and Dataflow. These new tools allow developers to debug in real-time their launched production applications. For instance, if you were suffering from performance issues you could go and look at the code being executed for a given request and immediately spot the block of code that is using the most CPU cycles. Google also announced that appurify has now merged with Google and they are going to be adding it to the cloud application testing suite.
At the end of the keynote, Sundar noted that as developers we are good at creating things out of “cardboard” so we were all given a piece of cardboard with an instruction set on how to put it together. Confused by this I set out to Project Cardboard booth to learn more about it. After finally getting my cardboard headset — yes a fully functional virtual reality headset when combined with your phone — I was able to sample an augmented reality demo. What they had done was found a way to provide a usable AR headset without a hefty price tag and the effects were impressive enough to fool me.
This was only a snippet of what we experienced at Google IO. Several other notable mentions include…
Enhanced debugging and testing techniques for Android Apps
Monetizing your apps and driving engagement
Glen Keane’s Duet interactive story
Predicting the world cup winner using “Big Data”
Plug and Play Hardware components for Android devices
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Google is clearly confident with their platforms setting out to expand them into areas they have never been used before (e.g. wearables, auto, and home to name a few). As hardware performance increases (Moore’s Law) and software algorithms get better the capabilities of what we can do with our phones will be unrestrained.