All the things you should look out for at Google I/O 2015

On Thursday, Google opens its only major show of the year – its I/O developer conference. It is usually a feast of announcements and new products, and I/O 2015 is expected to be no different.

The two-day event in San Francisco is likely to cover almost everything in the extensive Google portfolio, from Android to driverless cars, wearables, WiFi weather balloons and maybe even virtual reality.

Here are the potential headline-making things to look out for:

Android M

The next version of Android has to follow in the footsteps of version 5.0 Lollipop, which has been well received across the board following a major redesign. Things are therefore more likely to be more low-key this time, but there has been talk of introducing fingerprint scanning software – making it more widely available among Android’s range of hardware manufacturers. Look out for Internet of Things functionality too.

The other big headline with the new version of Android will be the name. We are up to M in Google’s sweet tooth alphabet, and the smart money is on either Marshmallow or Milkshake getting the nod this time around.

Google photo service

A rumour that is now beginning to gather pace is the idea that Google will ditch photos from Google+, and instead create a new standalone photo-sharing service. The suggestion is that the new service would offer editing tool like those in Google+, and that uploads could be posted directly to social media. Of course we can expect this to be in the cloud and working across devices. Look out iCloud.

Driverless cars

Arguably the topic that gets the most people interested – expanding far beyond the hardcore techies; and I/O passing without any news on Google’s self-driving car programme seems extremely unlikely. News appeared recently that confirmed tests on public roads will be beginning in California this year, so Google could well have more to share on that. The firm’s own prototype will be used in these tests, and an update on the testing process in general can be expected.

Project Ara

This is Google’s modular build-your-own-smartphone project. The idea being that you can start with a standard, central phone unit comprising a screen, but then the back panel has spaces to fill up with blocks of what you see fit; more battery power, a better camera, storage space etc.

The project is being put to the test later this year in Puerto Rico, where a pilot program will run. Ahead of that we could well see some discussion on how the trial will work, all the various components on offer, and what time frame Google has in mind for the project.

New wearables

According to a description for one of the sessions at I/O, Google’s Advanced Technology and Projects team (ATAP) will show off and discuss “wearables that we hope will blow your socks off. (We mean this more literally than you might think…).

“Our goal: break the tension between the ever-shrinking screen sizes necessary to make electronics wearable and our ability to have rich interactions with them,” it continued. “Why can’t you have both? We like to build new things. Sometimes seemingly impossible things. We can build them faster together.”

Could this be the return of Google Glass perhaps? Or something new entirely?

Chrome

While there is nothing specific circulating regarding Chrome and I/O, it’s extremely unlikely the event will pass without some news on Google’s browser.

Virtual reality

Glancing down the I/O schedule shows several sessions devoted to VR during the conference. The firm does have some VR hardware of its own in Cardboard, but this is very much at the lower end of the spectrum when it comes to power and graphics. This has been intentional from Google, until now, but could see a jump to something more substantial in the face of Oculus and co making strides in the field.

Android TV

Introduced as the replacement for Google TV at I/O last year, expect news of updates this year. Sony is planning to put Android TV into all its models this year, which is a good start, but Google will now be looking to make the platform more appealing to developers and other potential hardware partners.

Expect to see something of a hard sell from Google here, and look out for mentions of Google Cast, the firm’s music and video streaming platform.

That’s more than enough to keep us talking until the keynote on Thursday, which, along with several of the sessions is being live-streamed online. Pens at the ready to check off the announcements as they come.


 

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