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May 13th, 2016

Google I/O 2016 Preview: Machine Learning, Virtual Reality And Android N

The democratization of machine learning continues.

Google is about to set its developer agenda for the next year.

So, what kind of news should you expect from Google I/O 2016?

Google, as it normally does, has organized I/O around three distinct categories: development, monetization and the future. The conference will have 190 sessions for developers to learn how to make fast and efficient Web apps, optimize Android development and learn about the tools and features that will progressively make the Internet a more intelligent place.

If you’ve never experienced a Google I/O before, the sessions can be very technical. I/O is a developers conference after all. Yes, significant news can come out of developer conferences, but the bread and butter is about teaching developers the new nuts and bolts towards building better software and learning how to use all of Google’s tools to monetize that software.

Google I/O 2016 will take place at the Shoreline Amphitheatre in Mountain View, California from May 18 to May 20. Google moved this year’s I/O from its regular venue at Moscone West in San Francisco (where Apple, Microsoft and Samsung also hold their developer events) as part of the 10-year anniversary of I/O. Most of Google I/O will take place in tents outside.

The Essential Guide Guide to Android 6.0 Marshmallow What you need to know about all the features of Android 6.0 Get It Now

Here is what everybody will be talking about at Google I/O next week.

The Future: Virtual Reality And Neural Networks

Google will spend significant time at I/O explaining and providing developers with tools to access its deep neural networks and machine learning properties.

The biggest news on the machine learning front at Google I/O will be around Project Tango, a machine vision framework that allows smartphones to sees what is in front of them and let software react to it.

“With a few sensors and some computer vision software, your phone gets even smarter, and can start to see the world the way you do,” Google said in the description for a session on Project Tango.

Several of Google’s machine learning APIs will also be discussed, such as its Cloud Vision and Speech APIs. Natural Language Understanding (NLU) will be a big topic for Google, especially after the Research At Google team announced its English NLU for developers, Parsey McParseface.


As for virtual reality, Google does not have its own dedicated virtual reality hardware. That could change as rumors have been circulating that Google is reserving a place in its developer site for “Android VR.” What is not yet known is whether or not Android VR will be a smartphone head mount (like the Gear VR) or a standalone virtual reality entity. Either way, Google is expected to announce some type of virtual reality hardware at Google I/O 2016.

The impressive thing that Google has done with virtual reality is get way ahead of the content and apps economy aspect through the ingenious Google Cardboard program. Google Cardboard has let developers build stereoscopic apps for smartphones that slip into the cardboard head mounts that Google has been giving away for several years. When the time comes that virtual reality becomes more mainstream, Google is already in position to dominate the apps economy portion of it. At I/O, Google will talk about what it has learned with virtual reality and where it is going, as well as virtual reality for cinema.

For Developers: Android N, Web Apps & Performance

Two distinct themes will be present at Google I/O for developers: the coming of Android N and the burgeoning of progressive Web apps.

Android N (which does not yet have an API level, official version number or name) may not be the most exciting extension to Android. That is actually a good thing as the Android operating system has matured to the point where Google can focus on improving the infrastructure, user experience and performance of Android with incremental updates every year.

See also: Why Progressive Web Apps Are The Future Of Web Development

The primary front-facing updates to Android N will be new multi-tasking split-screen windows and updated notifications. On the backend, Android N has a variety of aspects that developers will need to know about, just as the new Just In Time and Ahead Of Time compilers for ART (Android Runtime). Doze—the power saving mode released in Android 6.0 Marshmallow—will also receive an update in Android N.


On the other side of the development spectrum, Web apps are once again becoming a big deal in development circles. The reason for is that the combination of service workers and application shell architecture—plus all the HTML5 hooks to device hardware in the last several years—are blurring the distinction between Web and native apps. Google I/O 2016 features almost as many sessions on progressive Web apps as it does on Android N.

Performance (which is one of the key aspects of progressive Web apps) will also be a strong category to follow at Google I/O. Google will have sessions on the Accelerated Mobile Pages Project (AMP) along with sessions on how to scale to billions of people and harness the powers of JavaScript and HTML.

Monetize: Acquisition And Deployment For Android

The monetization news and tracks are never the most popular among the developer crowds. But they are essential. The days of building and apps and launching it cold into the App Store and Google Play and finding success are long gone.

Google will have several tracks at I/O on user acquisition, implementation of AdMob on apps and websites, analytics, search and App Indexing. Google has long listened to feedback from the developer community to build better tools for helping Android apps reach bigger audiences and then monetizing those audiences.

ARC will be at Google I/O 2016 covering everything that matters to people who build software for a living and people who make a living with software. What are you expecting from Google I/O? Is virtual reality on your radar? What will you actually do with machine learning APIs? Let us know in the comments.

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