Wednesday marked the kick-off of Google’s annual I/O developer conference, a three-day extravaganza where the tech giant reveals its latest and greatest innovations.
At this year’s keynote, Google unveiled a number of new products and services, including a messaging app called Allo, improvements to Android, and a FaceTime rival named Duo.
It also announced the creation of a virtual reality platform, Daydream, which is quite the upgrade from its previous Cardboard effort. And while it’s a bit late to the game with its ‘Assistant’ capability, which is essentially just a more conversational version of Google Now, its integration with Google’s new voice-activated device makes it competitive with Amazon Echo.
Below, find out The Drum’s top takeaways from the annual event and what they mean for marketers.
Android Instant apps will let users check out an app before actually downloading it
Google has also rolled out a new feature for Android called ‘Instant Apps’ that it says bridges the gap between mobile websites and apps.
‘Instant Apps’ is rooted in the idea that, although apps provide a better user experience, they take time to download and are often no longer wanted after one use. With ‘Instant Apps,’ users can enjoy the perks of an app without the hassle of the download.
According to the Verge, “the basic idea is simple: when you click on a link, if that link has an associated Instant App at the URL you get a tiny version of that app instead of the website.”
The new feature would save users from the hassle of downloading one-time use apps, like a parking meter app at a museum that a user would likely want to get rid of after the visit.
While ‘Instant Apps’ is only available for Android and isn’t officially launching until later this year, the service could potentially be a boon for marketers since it lets a user’s experience with a brand’s app happen naturally. If users are pleased with the experience, they might even end up downloading the app anyway.
Move over Cardboard: the Daydream is Google’s new and improved VR headset
In 2014 Google unveiled its Cardboard VR headset, a cheap head mount, literally made of cardboard, that was created to encourage people to “experience virtual reality in a simple, fun, and affordable way” with the help of a smartphone.
Now, Google has upped the ante with the creation of a virtual reality system called Daydream. Unveiled at the I/O developer conference, Daydream still relies on a smartphone to work just like Cardboard does. However, Daydream comes with a more comfortable headset (with a headband, unlike Cardboard) and a controller that effectively works as a pointer.
Google itself won’t be selling the hardware. Instead, it will rely on partners to “push its VR goals by building headsets, remotes and phones,” according to CNET. Partners including Samsung, HTC, LG and Xiaomi have all signed up to produce Daydream-ready phones, all of which will have to get Google’s stamp of approval to ensure that they are fit for a VR experience. Daydream is set to launch this fall with content partners including Netflix, HBO and the MLB.
As brands including Gatorade, Oreo and New York Times continue to experiment with 360-degree video and VR content, Google’s Daydream proves that the search giant is betting big on virtual reality, which could inspire even more marketers to jump on the VR bandwagon.
Google has released its own version of a virtual assistant
In an effort to compete with the likes of Apple’s Siri and Microsoft’s Cortana, Google has unveiled its own version of a personal assistant. Simply called Assistant, the company said that it will make it easier to “buy movie tickets on while on the go, to find that perfect restaurant for your family to grab a quick bite before the movie starts, and then help you navigate to the theater.”
While Assistant’s capabilities are similar to those of Google Now, it’s more conversational in the sense that it can react to follow-up questions and statements. For example, if someone states they want to bring their kids to the movies with them, the Assistant will offer up family-friendly movies.
Another key difference is that Assistant will be able to work across two other Google products that were rolled out at the I/O conference: Google Home and Allo. Google Home, which will rival Amazon’s Echo, is a voice-activated device that “brings the Google assistant to any room in your house.” For example, with a voice command, someone could ask Google Home to play a song, set a timer for the oven, or turn on lights.
Allo is a new messaging app that Google assistant’s capabilities will be weaved into. Within chats, users will be able to call on Assistant to do things like recommend restaurants nearby or pull up photos. Allo can even suggest replies to chat messages, saving time for those who'd rather used a canned response instead of taking the time to type out their own.