Interesting Things to Come Out of Google I/O

Google’s keynote conference, the Google I/O, is an annual developer-focused conference keynote held by tech-giant Google on an annual basis.

I/O stands for Innovation in the Open.

The Google I/O features highly technical, in-depth sessions focusing on many of Google’s products and services, including news and announcements about Google’s products (such as Google Glass), the search engine, it’s cellular operating system Android, and more.

The 2013 Google I/O – a 3-day event – is being held in San Francisco from May 15-17. Tickets to the conference, priced at a whooping $900, were sold out in a record time of just 49 minutes.

As expected, day 1 of the conferences brought forth some interesting announcements from Google, including additions to the already-impressive roster of products and services being offered by Google, and changes to many of it’s current ones. Here are some of the more interesting stories and highlights to have come out of the first day (EDIT: Interesting stuff to have come out of all 3 days has been added!):

 

Day 1

An all-new, revamped and updated Google+

One of the big stories to have come out of day at Google I/O is the introduction of all-new, revamped version of Google’s popular social networking website, Google Plus.

Yes, Google+ has been given an overhaul ‘with emphasis on photo management and sharing’.

It actually seems to have borrowed heavily from Pinterest as well as Facebook – especially with a two-column ‘Facebook timeline-like’ design, that is aimed to get more information to the user.

Other additions and changes to the social networking website – 41 in total – include the inclusion and integration of Hashtags, or Related Hashtags to be precise, a feature which analyzes the content of a post and adds hashtags to it automatically. Google Hangouts gets its own mobile app, ala Apple FaceTime and Facebook Messenger (more below). And Picasa – Google’s image editing app – is now being integrated into Google Plus, which will allow you to auto-enhance your photos on the click of a button before uploading them.

Google has also added Google+ Events to Google+, which lets you create events, invite people (pretty much like Facebook events), and sync all your events with Google Calendar.

 

Google Maps gets a major overhaul

Big, big changes as far as Google Maps are concerned!

Like Google Plus, Google Maps is one of Google’s most-popular and widely-used service. At the I/O, Google announced that Maps is getting a major overhaul – the first of its kind since the service was launched 8 years ago, and is being rebuilt from the ground-up!

Google now aims to create real-time, personalized maps for everyone on the planet. This means that when you visit Maps, Google will highlight the places you frequent, such as your office, home, favorite restaurants, etc, based on information gathered from various places (such as Google Plus, your Maps history, Gmail, etc). Then, based on this information, whenever you go somewhere, Google will display a list of recommended places for you to go and visit.

In addition, clicking on a restaurant will highlight other restaurants in the vicinity.

Google Earth will now also be available with Maps, instead of just being available as a downloadable app – and comes with 3D imagery and real-time weather!

The all-new Google Maps will initially be introduced to a few people, and you can sign up for an invite here to be one of them!

UPDATE (21st May 2013): Here’s Mashable’s hands-on with the all-new Google Maps, highly recommend you to check it out. In addition, make sure you sign up for an invite using the link above. I just got mine so I’m about to see what the new maps look like. Exciting!

 

Google Play Music All Access – Google’s All-New Music-Streaming Service

Perhaps one of the only services missing from Google’s impressive roster was a music streaming service, ala Spotify. Took Google a while didn’t it!

Google Play Music All Access will be a subscription-based music streaming service, that offers music suggestions based on songs you like and already listen to. It combines a music search engine with an internet radio-station: you can listen to the radio, look at the upcoming tracks, skip tracks, move your favorite tracks to the top, as well as search for songs and artists you like and listen to them.

You would be able to search and choose your tracks from a large library made of up millions of songs (thanks to deals made by Google with major music labels), add them to your own playlists and listen to your favorite songs from any device.

Google Play Music All Access will also have a ‘Listen Now’ feature, which would create a playlist of songs for you based on your music taste, what you like to hear and often listen to.

Currently only available in the US, subscription costs 10 bucks-a-month with a 30-day free trial.

 

Voice Search comes to the desktop

Google’s voice search is already present on the Android OS – now, it’s being brought to the desktop via Google’s internet browser, Google Chrome. Think of this like Siri from your desktop, but better and powered by a massive database of information!

Indeed, observers at the I/O report that the live demonstration was impressive, and the Voice Search’s strength lies upon Google’s massive search engine database, as well as what Google knows about you through various sources – such as your location, music likes and dislikes, search habits, and so on.

Creepy? Maybe a little bit. Useful, a lot!

 

Google Hangouts gets a dedicated app for smartphones

Google Hangouts now has a shiny new app for smartphones running the Android OS and Apple’s iOS.

The app makes it easy to connect with people in your circles, speak with them, start a hangout (video-chat), start a text-based chat, and send and receive photos with your friends and family easily, straight from the phone.

The app attempts to replicate many of the features and functions already present in Facebook messenger, Apple FaceTime, and perhaps Skype.

The best thing about the web-based G+ Hangouts was the ability to easily start group video-conversations. The app brings this feature to the smartphone now, as one will easily be able to start a video conversation with multiple number of people using the front-facing camera on their smartphones (ala. FaceTime and Skype, but with as many people as you want!).

Unlike Skype though, group chats of Hangouts are and will be totally free – provided one has a Google+ account.

 

Google Wallet Integrated with Gmail

Wallet, Google’s online payment service (and Google’s answer to PayPal) has now been integrated with Gmail – which means that users can now send money via Gmail attachments!

 

Stay tuned and watch this space for developments on Day 2 and 3 (Update: as promised, here are the highlights from the 2nd and 3rd days of Google I/O):

 

Day 2

Google Glass Updates

New apps alert! Yes, Google Glass gets more apps – and important ones too. Both Twitter and Facebook have released apps for Glass, with the likes of Tumblr and CCN to follow suit.

 

More Google+ Updates

Google+ updates kept coming in on day 2 of the I/O. Google made 2 announcements: Google+ Games will be retired at the end of June, and replaced by Google’s brand-spanking-new gaming platform called Google Play Game Services (announced on Day 1) instead. Also, Google Hangouts will soon get SMS integration.

Which pretty much rounds off the significant updates and developments to come out of Day 2 (yes, there were a few developments regarding Android and the Nexus as well. Minor updates, nothing significant though, as Day 2  and 3 were more developer-focused. Read more here).

It should also be mentioned that all the attendees got free Google Chromebooks!

 

Day 3

Very developer focused – similar to day 2 – with little to no announcements or things to get excited about.

 

Surprises to Have Come Out of Google I/O

Having followed the whole thing, here are a few things that left me a bit surprised:

  • No major updates on Google Glass. Heck, Glass wasn’t even mentioned during the opening keynote, not even a single person wore it!
  • No new version of Android OS was announced, which was disappointing.

 

For Those Who Missed It

You can view a bunch of videos on Google’s Dev Channel on Youtube. Here’s the 3 hour 30 minute keynote from Day 1 to get your started:

 

Thoughts?

Did I miss something? What caught your eye this year on the I/O? What are your thoughts about this year’s event? Fire up your comments in the comments section below!