In Depth

Google I/O 2016: Roundup of all the big announcements

Daydream VR and new messaging apps, as well as a new computer 'assistant', are coming soon

Google has revealed several new hardware and software additions at its annual I/O conference, ranging from virtual reality to machine learning based software.

Despite projects like Google's self-driving car not featuring, BGR says that 2016 was "easily the best show in years", thanks to a number of new mobile additions that are coming out later on in the year.

So what are the headline grabbers from this year's conference?

Google Assistant

Assistant is Google's new smart service software that the company claims is an "order of magnitude" beyond competitors like Apple's Siri.

According to Pocket Lint, the scope of Google Assistant is "vast". The idea isn't just to have assistant software that will deal with requests and respond to questions, but an assistant that thinks about why a user may be asking for a certain thing before taking the next logical step.

The site takes the example of using Google Assistant for a trip to the cinema. If a user asks to see movie listings, the assistant will not only reply with what's on, but will also offer to book tickets. It's set to work across all Google-related devices, including a new piece of hardware introduced during the keynote – Google Home.

Google Home

Google Home is a smart speaker system not dissimilar to Amazon's Echo. It's a home hub, designed to interact with things around the house alongside being a beacon for Google's Assistant and a voice-activated music speaker.

It can answer questions, play music, and even control household appliances and fixtures if you have any smart gadgets installed. Pricing has yet to be confirmed, but it will be on sale later this year.

Allo and Duo

Another Google Assistant related reveal is the firm's new Allo messenger platform that works through a device's contacts book. End-to-end encryption features, though unlike iMessenger and WhatsApp, users have to opt in for the added privacy through an incognito mode. 

Building assistant into the messaging service means users get a handful of new perks, some useful and others fun. For example, you'll be able to bring the assistant in on conversations between friends. Google uses restaurants as an example – the software will detect if you're talking about eating and suggest places to go. Users can either send the info straight into the conversation flow, or ignore it.

A lot of the assistant's role in Allo is based on machine learning. Over time, it will come to learn how you write and respond to messages, and will suggest instant responses tailored to your style. It works with pictures too – it can recognise the content of images and provide a handful of responses.

Alongside Allo, Google has also released Duo, a new video messaging platform. Its standout feature is Knock Knock, where a fun preview of the caller is displayed on the recipient's device, "akin to looking through the peephole of your front door before pretending you aren't in" says The Guardian. Both will arrive on Android and iOS later this year.

Daydream VR

A new Android VR platform has been unveiled. Called Daydream, it encompasses advancements in third party hardware from Google's rudimentary Cardboard VR viewer, as well as new software – the Daydream hub and apps will be built into Android N.

It's a new smartphone operated VR platform, but Google won't be making a VR headset – third parties will work from its designs to make the Samsung Gear VR rivalling viewers, and when Android N releases, the handsets powering it later this year will have to be certified "Daydream ready".

A little remote – tracked in space – also features, so Daydreamers can navigate their virtual worlds.

Instant Apps

Instant Apps is a new perk that will mean many web transactions are channelled seamlessly through a dedicated app, even if you haven't actually downloaded it.

For instance, click a link online and you'll be redirected to an app page rather than a webpage if one is available – the entire app isn't downloaded, only the part you'll need. It could save you tonnes of space on your device while providing optimised services. The Verge says that the potential is huge, and the instant apps are "the most fascinating thing" Google has revealed this year.

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