Google's app factory is going into overdrive, readying several new features that empower Google Now and the company's upcoming digital assistant. The new features are hinted at in the code of the latest beta version of the Google app, which now powers all of the company's search and artificial intelligence services on Android. From the Google assistant to more voice commands, your phone is about to get far more proactive and predictive at serving as your aide. These features will be necessary for features like Android Auto on your phone and the assistant features of Google Allo. While a few hints of the Google Assistant showed up in a previous build, there's a lot more to be found in version 6.2 of the Google app beta (coming to the Play Store or now on APK Mirror).
But when I/O kicks off this Wednesday, expect Google's latest artificial intelligence efforts to be what everyone ends up talking about. If you've been paying attention over the last year or so, you've noticed that Google seems especially passionate about AI, injecting it into everything from search results to chat apps to the new Google Assistant for Android phones and the Google Home speaker. CEO Sundar Pichai has sounded especially bullish on the prospects for AI on recent company earnings calls and public interviews. That was just the beginning. Internally, Google sees AI as its next major platform after search and Android -- and it wants to give developers a way to get in early.
How in the world did we manage to survive for a few millennia without voice-activated virtual assistants? I mean, it wasn't that long ago that we drove around without being able to ask our phones for driving directions. But now the idea of being unable to do that is downright scary. More recently, if you needed to find a fact, you typed into Google and thousands of answers popped up, almost instantly. If you wanted to read movie or restaurant reviews, tap tap tap.
Google has had a tradition of releasing annual Android updates -- its last update Android Nougat -- was released in August 2016. As 2017 commences, we get closer to the launch of the next Android update, which is likely to start with the letter O, going by Google's tradition of naming its operating system (OS) updates alphabetically with names of desserts. While the numerical denomination of the update would be Android 8 or Android 8.0, Google's name for the update is how it will be commonly known. So what are the possible candidates for the name? Well, there aren't too many desserts starting with the letter O, which sort of narrows down the choices.
Google Assistant will be available soon on Android TVs, with plans to offer the voice-activated personal assistant on car infotainment systems and smartwatches as well. The technology will feature in the coming months, starting with the Nvidia Shield, on Android TVs in the U.S. running Android 6.0 Marshmallow or Android 7.0 Nougat. Some of the devices expected to ship with Google Assistant are the AirTV Player, Sharp Aquos, Sony Bravia and Xiaomi Mi Box, Sascha Prueter, director of Android TV at Google and Gummi Hafsteinsson, product lead for Google Assistant, wrote in a post on Thursday. "Over time, you'll also see the Assistant come to other new surfaces, like smartwatches running Android Wear 2.0, Android-powered in-car infotainment systems and many other types of devices through the Embedded Google Assistant SDK," the executives wrote in the post. Google Assistant is already available on Pixel smartphones, Google Home and the Allo smart messaging app.