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Google I/O: Expect A.I., virtual reality

Sharon Gaudin | May 17, 2016
While Android is a constant, Google may focus on cars, digital assistants and virtual reality this week.

For a conference that has been used to advance Android and Chrome, and introduce Google Glass with users parachuting from a plane, people are expecting to hear about virtual reality and artificial intelligence at this week's Google I/O conference.

"This year's focus will be virtual reality, no doubt," said Jeff Kagan, an independent industry analyst. "I believe Google wants to be a leader in virtual reality and, in this marketplace where there are no leaders yet, I think they will try and secure their place in the front of the line."

Kagan said Google may even roll out its own early- generation virtual reality device at I/O, the company's annual developer conference, which generally draws more than 6,000 attendees.

The conference is being held from Wednesday through Friday in Mountain View, Calif., the same city where Google is headquartered.

One of the big differences for this year's conference is that it's not at the Moscone Center in San Francisco.

Shoreline Amphitheater 
The Shoreline Amphitheater in Mountain View, Calif., where this year's Google I/O conference will be held. Credit: Shoreline Amphitheater

Google has not given a reason for the change of venue, to the Shoreline Amphitheatre, though many anticipate that the company is looking to use the outdoor fairplex to display advances in its work on autonomous cars, robotics or drones.

"I expect it means Google will be showing off its skills at defining and powering autonomous vehicles -- not just cars but drones and devices of all sorts," said Jack Gold, an analyst with J.Gold Associates. "Cars seem to be getting the headlines but there are a number of autonomous things that Google wants to power."

Gold added that those smart devices could range from autonomous garbage trucks to systems that find an open parking space for your car and autonomous wheelchairs for people with disabilities.

"Think of this as the same kind of race we went through in trying to power smartphones," he said. "Google won big there against the competition, and it is trying to position itself as the power inside the next wave of autonomous vehicles and robotic gadgets, as well."

Scott Strawn, an analyst with IDC, said he thinks Google is likely to show off driverless cars.

Google had pushed hard into robotics back in 2013, scooping up Boston Dynamics, the maker of the Atlas humanoid robot and the Big Dog, along with a string of other robotics companies. When reports hit that Google is trying to unload Boston Dynamics, it left many observers wondering how committed the company still is to developing its own robotics technology.


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