Google’s I/O conference was packed full of product announcements, demos, and technical breakouts, but they’re surrounded by plenty of entertainment and fun during the three days. You know, like this life-size mechanical dragon featured at the After Hours party. It is no wonder the event is one of the most popular developer conferences ever — selling out more quickly each year.
I was lucky enough to cover the event for ExtremeTech and wanted to share with you some of the highlights from the event…
Excitement always builds towards the opening keynote at Google I/O. Perhaps it is not quite as much of a religious experience as an Apple keynote, but there is plenty of energy to go around. Here you can see the clever electronic clock counting down on-screen.
Unfortunately, to get to the keynote everyone has to go up one of two escalators (although the second day a stairwell was also opened), so the line wraps all the way around the ground floor of the convention center before the escalators are opened up. The wait is worth it, but needless to say there was a fair amount of moaning and groaning going on.
The launch of Android 4.1, code-named Jelly Bean, was definitely the software highlight of the show. Even though it was one of the most anticipate introductions, there were still some surprises in the specific features Google was able to pack into what in number was treated as a minor release.
The Jelly Bean demos showcased the release’s new knowledge-related features, including offline voice search, a voice assistant, and Google Now, which helps you out with information when you need it based on your usage history, commuting patterns, and other personal data.
Since the featured hardware for Jelly Bean is the content-consuming-optimized Google Nexus 7 tablet, magazine, TV and movie partnerships were also featured on stage. Somehow, a number of the projected magazine covers featured fashion models.
The Google Plus demo had the unenviable task of coming between the much-anticipated Jelly Bean launch and the amazing Sergey Brin orchestrated sky-diving extravaganza. Most of the audience didn’t seem too excited about Google Plus in general, and judging from the low energy during the segment, the new Events capability didn’t change that. 2,600 attendees did sign-up for the after-hours party as a Google Plus Event though, putting their phones into “party mode” to easily share their snapshots.
Without a doubt the highlight of the keynotes was the surprise demo of Google Glass, starting with sky divers wearing Glass prototypes jumping from a blimp over San Francisco and landing on the roof of the convention center — all the while communicating real-time using their Glass units. After landing the prototypes were rushed by stunt mountain bikers to the stage. The second day’s keynote featured a second run-through with some “behind the scenes” footage, but it wasn’t nearly as exciting and not as enthusiastically greeted by the crowd.
Later in the day, Sergey Brin modeled Google Glass to show how light and relatively unobtrusive the latest versions are. I was fortunate enough to be able to use a pair, and I was blown away by the experience.
As with past Google I/O conferences, attendees were given free hardware — perhaps explaining why the $900 event sold out in minutes. The line to get the Nexus 7 stretched back and forth around the convention center, while breakout sessions held at the same time were mostly ghost towns.
No Google event would be complete without games. Here attendees enjoy the latest in video games at Google’s always popular after-hours party on the first day of the conference.
The Android logo was everywhere at Google I/O, with even the beer kegs being modeled after Android.
The highlight of Day 2′s keynote was probably the announcement by Google that they are making their compute muscle more available to everyone, through a new Compute Engine service. It is designed to go head-to-head with Amazon’s AWS, offering Linux VMs for what Google claimed would be “half the price of competing offerings.”
If you’ve been jealous of the wide variety of cool docks for iPhones and iPads, now Gear4 has introduced what they say is the first Android-centric dock. No matter where the microUSB port is on your phone or tablet, and which way you set it, it’ll dock with their sleek unit. The magic is in drivers which allow Android audio to be sent over the microUSB connector to the dock, making streaming audio possible. The unit includes a digital alarm clock also, of course.
The most colorful demo of I/O was certainly the presentation by Cirque du Soleil and app developer Subatomic of an HTML5-native, very impressively animated, web experience that will run cross-platform — but was, of course, demoed on Chrome.
[Image Credit: David Cardinal]