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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.

"After Andy Rubin [former head of Google's robotics division] left, it isn't clear how much progress they've made with their robotics program," Strawn said. "But their cars have been in the media quite a bit, which might suggest some kind of unveiling this week."

And with Google's increasing interest in autonomous vehicles and virtual reality, there's a natural push for the company to invest heavily in artificial intelligence and machine learning to support those efforts.

Many industry analysts are expecting to hear more about that this week.

"What's most important to me are the efforts Google has around cognitive computing and artificial intelligence," said Gold. "We are seeing major pushes by IBM, with Watson, and Microsoft and others. I'd really like to see how Google plans to counter these efforts."

He added that he's interested to see if Google will talk about or show off an advance to Apple's Siri, or Amazon's Echo.

Strawn, too, thinks Google might focus on a smart personal assistant.

"Google is working hard to create an interactive digital assistant," said Strawn. "If you've ever seen the movie Her, that would give you a good idea of the type of interaction they are trying to create. Mostly it would be to help organize people's lives, kind of like an ever-present assistant that you can have a conversation with."

Of course, it wouldn't be Google I/O without talk of Android and Chrome but most aren't expecting huge news out of those areas this week.

"Google always has some type of updates that will be revealed about the next version of Android, even though this year some Android N features have been announced already," said Brian Blau, an analyst with Gartner. "There have been rumors for many years that Android and Chrome OS will be merged or will interoperate to some degree. And while some developers want this merging to happen sooner than later, Google may only look at some interoperability versus a more substantial merging."

Google's cloud efforts also are likely to get some attention. And Project Tango, a technology that enables mobile devices to be aware of their position in the world, is expected to be updated during the conference.

"I believe [Project Tango] was demonstrated at last year's conference, so I expect to see some refinements and further packaging of this intriguing idea," said Brad Shimmin, an analyst with Current Analysis. "Clearly, mobile devices are not just ubiquitous but also heterogeneous in shape, size and purpose. If Google can deliver a set of APIs that engage those devices directly with the physical world around them and with their users, we could be in for something much more momentous than even virtual reality."


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