Wednesday, 22 May 2013 00:00

Google Glass, Leap Motion, Self-Driving Cars, and a Slew of Enhancements Featured

Written by  Ryan Rekab
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Google’s ambition is second to none in the tech world.  Over the past week or so I’ve been immersed in the experience that is Google I/O - Google’s yearly developer conference.  I must say, that it’s easily one of
the most exciting events around for the lucky few able to make the trip out to San Francisco.

On Day 1, during the three and half hour Keynote, Google debuted a slew of enhancements to many of their existing products and services. Most notable, were the changes to their extremely popular Android operating system. Equally impressive, were the improvements intended for developers across a large portion of Google’s services; which included location improvements for Google Play services for Android, Google Play store developer console, and various new features intended for use in education.android_googleio.jpg

In addition to the Google Play improvements, Google also showcased its progress with Chrome platform, as well as new features added to the search giant’s social platform Google+.  Speculation around the conference was that many of the new Google+ features were aimed to put them in more serious competition with Facebook, boasting automatic image enhancement, automatic hash tagging and filtering of posts, and an exciting new unified chat system named Google Hangouts. “Hangouts” features multi person video chatting, fast instant messaging, unified notifications across all your devices and even messaging for images.


In a rare occurrence, Google CEO Larry Page, took the stage near the end of the I/O keynote, explaining his lack of public appearances was due to a paralysis of the vocal cords.  When Page took the stage, he didn’t sound like a CEO, businessman, or entrepreneur; instead he portrayed himself as a humble enthusiast -- saddened by the anti-competitive state of the tech industry -- yet, still excited about the possibilities of the future.  He stated that he takes pride in his company and the tech community, which often surprises him with each new progression, sometimes taking inspiration directly from science fiction and making it reality.

Watch the full keynote

The keynote wasn’t all the excitement at I/O, however.  During the entire 3 day conference, attendees were treated to a volume of sessions, ranging from lessons in Android Development, Web Development, Best Practices, App Marketing, Google Maps Development and Tech Talks. There were even Live Code labs where developers could collaborate with Googlers using their own snippets of code to try and improve upon their own projects.



Throughout the conference, a variety of booths were set up displaying exciting new products such as the Leap Motion gaming system, the world’s first self-driving car, and of course, the much anticipated Google Glass exhibits. Various other booths touting new technologies like Nvidia’s new Project Shield (A handheld gaming focused Android device) were also abundant.


Google I/O attendees were treated to an after party on the first day, featuring impromptu concerts by Billy Idol and Steve Aoki. Fittingly, attending the party as well, were quite a few robots, including Bartenders which would make you any drink you could think of, RC fighters, a Giant steel barrel-crushing hand, and the Tesla Coil band Arc Attack.

Watch Tesla Coil Band Arc Attack



















Another exciting event that made quite a presence at the conference was Google’s side project by Niantic Labs: “Ingress” - an augmented reality game based on Google Maps, where players must go to locations in the real world using the GPS on their mobile devices to take over hotspots called “Portals”. On the second day of the conference, Niantic hosted an event for the game, named Operating Bowstring. The event was open to anyone in San Francisco and consisted of opposing factions in the game who participated in virtual battle (and probably looked crazy to everyone not playing the game) while roaming the city, before retreating to a local bar for a celebratory after party.Attendees were also treated to a new piece of Google hardware.


Their latest installment of the oft-criticized Chromebook line, the “Chromebook Pixel” was given to each attendee.  Normally priced at $1450, it was a rather exciting gift to receive.  The Chromebook series of laptops is often looked down upon for its perceived lack of functionality, which is likely why Google wanted to get them into the hands of developers.  While the Chrome OS features can be fairly limited compared to other laptop platforms such as Windows or Mac OS X, about half of the conference attendees had their Pixels sporting a distribution of Ubuntu (operating system) by the second day of the conference.  The Pixel is a unique laptop mostly due to the display, sporting an unheard of 2560x1700 resolution multi touch screen, which at the screen’s 12.85 inch display size, boasts a pixel density of 239 PPI.  Personally though, I quite enjoy the Pixel as it’s about the coolest little laptop to happily type away a tech article on.

All in all, the Google I/O conference was a fantastic experience for any Google developer or tech enthusiast.  The opportunity to attend and meet so many interesting people, take classes directly from Google employees themselves, and experience the latest cutting edge technologies and announcements firsthand was wildly fun.  I’ve most certainly got my fingers crossed in hopes of getting myself a ticket to next year’s I/O.
For those of you who’d like to have attended the sessions and tech talks, Google’s recorded them and made them public, stream them on YouTube
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