Google announced a slew of new hardware and software at this year’s I/O event for developers. From tablets to a funky-looking media streamer, to the next version of Android and even the futuristic Project Glass, the boys of Mountain View covered it all so let’s dive right in.
The Nexus 7 serves the same purpose as the Nexus smartphone lineup: it provides a pure Android experience, but on a tablet. The 7-inch slate was made in collaboration with hardware manufacturer Asus, and it packs a 1280×800 back-lit IPS display with scratch-resistant Corning Gorilla glass. It measures 198.5 x 120 x 10.45mm and weighs an impressively light 340 grams. A quad-core Tegra 3 processor from NVIDIA and 1GB of RAM power the tablet, and a 4325 mAh battery 9 hours of HD video playback and 300 hours of standby time. As far as sensors go, there’s an accelerometer, GPS, a magnetometer, and a gyroscope. WiFi 802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth, and NFC are also on board. Ports include Micro USB and a 3.5mm headphone jack, both located on the bottom of the device. There’s rear-facing camera, but you’ll find a 1.2MP front-facing camera for video chatting. 8GB and 16GB storage capacities are available to pre-order today through the Google Play storefront at $199 and $149, respectively. The tablet ships later this month and comes with a $25 credit for the Play store plus a copy of Transformers: Dark of the Moon and other media-related extras. It runs the latest version of Android (that is 4.1 Jelly Bean, more on this later) and Google says it was “made for Google Play.” On the homescreen you’ll have quick access to games, your music, movie, and TV show libraries, and your book and magazine collections. In related news, the Google Play store has been updated and now sells magazines, TV shows, and movies can be rented and purchased.
In a not-so-surprising move, Google has brought its desktop Chrome browser to Android mobile devices. Dubbed Chrome for Android Beta, the new mobile browser focuses on speed, simplicity, and seamless sign-in and sync. The Chrome omnibox rests up top and search results are loaded in the background instantly as you type in it. Intuitive tabbed browsing is in tow, as is link preview and incognito mode. When you first launch the browser you are asked to sign-in with your Google account. Connecting your account to the browser allows you to view open tabs you left on your computer on your mobile device, get autocomplete suggestions based on searches you made on your computer, and sync your bookmarks across devices. Chrome for Android is now available to download from the Android Market, but for now it’s only compatible with Android phones and tablets running version 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. Hop after the break to watch an introductory demonstration.
Just signed out of Gmail and was prompted to check out a new feature in beta called Gmail Motion.
Gmail Motion uses your computer’s built-in webcam and Google’s patented spatial tracking technology to detect your movements and translate them into meaningful characters and commands. Movements are designed to be simple and intuitive for people of all skill levels.
Head over to the elaborately detailed website Google has dedicated to this fun prank. There you’ll find more information about the technology behind Gmail Motion and hear what a “paralanguage expert” and “movement specialist” have to say about it. In due time, the search company plans to expand Motion into Google Docs (creating a pie chart is a riot).
Why the change, you ask? Straight from Google’s mouth:
Since Chrome is all about making your web experience as easy and clutter-free as possible, we refreshed the Chrome icon to better represent these sentiments. A simpler icon embodies the Chrome spirit — to make the web quicker, lighter, and easier for all.
And there you have it folks. Chrome is seamlessly simple, and now its icon is too.
If you couldn’t figure it out by reading the post title, Google’s web browser that could is being upgraded across the board. And when I say across the board, I really mean across platforms. In addition to bringing a slew of updates to the standard Chrome browser in version 8, Google also spilled more details about the Chrome Web Store and its forthcoming operating system based on the browser itself. All of the juicy details were shared at a Chrome-themed press event on Tuesday, just one day after Google dropped the Android 2.3 with Nexus S bomb. To say the G-Men dominated this week in tech would be a nasty understatement. Ready, set, dive…
Chrome Web Store: Everyone knows about Apple’s App Store, and it’s about time word of Google’s Chrome Web Store got around. The concept is simple. The Web Store houses Chrome Extensions, Themes, and most importantly web apps. What are web apps and how do they differ from plain ‘ol apps? Google describes them as “advanced interactive websites”, but essentially they are apps built specifically for use inside a browser. And that comes with perks–the best one being that you never have to worry about updating them. Since they live on the web in your browser, updates can be automatically pushed out from the developer at any time without you ever having to think about it. All web app purchases are tied to your Google Account. Perk alert! Since that’s the case, all your purchases app live in the cloud and not on your computer, meaning they can be accessed from any Internet-connected device with a browser (i.e. another computer, a smartphone, etc.). Google is also making it so that apps can work offline, leaving it up to the developer’s discretion. Many developers are already jumping on board to make web apps. At the press event Amazon showcased Kindle for the Web, an app that allows ebook readers to read their purchased titles inside a browser. And no surprise here; your reading library, last page read, bookmarks, notes, and highlights will be saved and seamlessly transported to any device you have the Kindle app installed on (said devices include the iOS lineup, Android phones, and obviously a Kindle reader). The Store also hosts some games, but don’t expect to find anything mindblowing in that genre just yet. It’s up and running today, so head over to the Chrome Web Store and check it out. The layout will be familiar to you; app categories on the left, top paid and free on the right, featured apps in the middle. Go wild. READ MORE More Google news: Chrome 8, Chrome Web Store, Chrome OS→
On September 2 Google celebrated Chrome’s second birthday by releasing version 6.0.472.53. The faster and more streamlined version of Chrome features an even more minimalist and stripped down user interface. “We combined Chrome’s two menus into one, revisited the location of the buttons, cleaned up the treatment of the URL and the Omnibox, and adjusted the color scheme of the browser to be easier on the eyes,” reads the Google Chrome Blog.
On Thursday Google introduced a new app for Android devices called Voice Actions. “Voice Actions are a series of spoken commands that let you control your phone using your voice.” Sounds simple and yet it is extremely helpful. There are a total of twelve voice actions you can perform by speaking into the device’s mic. Including the already implemented method of performing a Google search with your voice, other actions include:
send text to [contact] [message]
listen to [artist/song/album]
send email to [contact] [message]
go to [website]
note to self [note]
navigate to [location/business name]
directions to [location/business name]
map of [location]
set alarim for [time]
Here’s how a number of them work. You can complete a text message or email without touching the (physical or on-screen) keyboard simply by saying “send text to Bill Will” or “send email to Bill Will” respectively. The phone will take a second to understand your speech input and then present your message all ready for delivery. Tapping send will shoot your message off. Speak and send, it’s that simple. Voice actions extend beyond text messaging and emailing. Say there’s a restaurant you want to call to make reservations for dinner. You know the name and location of the restaurant, but you don’t have the business’ phone number handy. You could bring up the browser and find the number that way, but with voice actions you can more quickly and efficiently obtain and dial the restaurant’s number. The voice action “Call Sarabeth’s in NYC” will prompt your device to quickly search the Internet (using Google Maps) for the restaurant’s phone number by pinging the name and specific location. Within seconds of your voice action you’ll hear your phone ringing the restaurant or place of business. You can even use voice actions to find and listen to music. When you say “Listen to The Decemberists” your phone will search across your music library and any number of related apps (Pandora, last.fm, etc.) to start playing music from that particular band. “Note to self”, as cliche as it sounds, serves as another interesting voice action that’ll likely come in handy from time to time.
Voice Actions require Android 2.2 (Froyo) and they are currently available for U.S. English speakers only. Droid 2 owners will find the app preinstalled on their device. If you have an Android 2.2 device, search ‘Voice Search’ in the Android Market to find the free download.
Google also announced Chrome to Phone, a Chrome browser extention and Android app that communicate with each other to send browser-specific information from your desktop to your phone. Once you have Chrome to Phone installed on your desktop and phone, you can send websites, directions, and phone numbers from your desktop Chrome browser to your Android device. For example, say you’re catching up on national news at The New York Times website but you are interuppted and forced to leave home. Simply tap the new phone icon located at the top right corner of your Chrome browser window and the website will appear on your Android phone. Now let’s say you are planning a road trip using Google Maps in Chrome. Instead of wasting paper by printing out the directions, now you can send the directions from your desktop to your phone. The instant transfer will automatically open up the Google Maps app on your phone and you’re just a tap away from initiating a Google Maps Navigation route using the transferred location information. One more example. You want to make a reservation at Sarabeth’s in NYC and you found the restaurant’s phone number on your desktop. Ready to make the call? Highlight the phone number, tap the new phone button in Chrome, and the transfer will bring up your phone’s dialer prepopulated with the restaurant’s number.
The Google Chrome to Phone Extention is available (in English only) to download today. The free Chrome to Phone app requires Android 2.2 (Froyo) and can be found in the Android Market by searching ‘Chrome to Phone.’
Google’s back with new innovations. Let’s jump right into it.
Google Goggles: Up until now, if you wanted to search using Google you had two options: typing at Google.com or speaking using a Google mobile app. Now Google is giving its Android users the ability to search by taking pictures. Google Goggles takes a picture of an object and then displays additional information on that particular object for you. For example, if you take a picture of a textbook, Goggles will provide you a summary of the book, places to purchase it, compare prices at various locations, reviews, and so on. In another example, Goggles can analyze a business card and recognize the contact’s name, phone number, and email address and ask if you’d like to store this information appropriately on your phone. You can even point Goggles at famous landmarks and paintings and it will display relevant information to you. Also, for local business information, you are not required to take a picture; using Android’s built-in camera, GPS, and compass, it uses the augmented reality concept to display (say) restaurant information live to your phone’s screen as you simply point it in front of the destination. It all seems like magic, right? What if you point it at objects like plants or animals? Google is quick to say that Goggle does not have the power to recognize everything. For example, it cannot analyze food, cars, plants, or animals…yet! Google claims they are “only scratching the surface of the visual search technology.”
Favorite Places: Google has decided to help us make decisions when we leave our homes to shop, eat, and hang out in our towns, all across America. Google is sending out over 100,000 window decals to local businesses in all 50 states that happen to be popular search entries on Google and Google Maps. The window decals each display a unique bar code called a QR code. Here’s an example of favorite places in action: You are walking around town and you stumble upon two restaurants and you can’t decide which one to choose for dinner. Simply whip out your phone, aim the camera at the QR code in the window, and viola–your phone will display results from Google that pertain to that specific restaurant. Results include reviews, ratings, and more. You can also mark a destination as a favorite so you can visit it again in the future. Soon you’ll be able to add your own review to the mix after your meal to give fellow locals a hand when they need to make similar decisions. So what do you need to make all this happen? In short, you need a phone with a camera that can read QR codes. To read a QR code, check out the following apps: QuickMark (iPhone); Barcode Scanner (Android); for other phones like Blackberry and Palm, try searching “QR reader” in the app store to find one. “This launch is part of our overall effort — online and offline — to provide you with the best local business results whenever you’re trying to figure out where to go…” Google is still giving out window decals to local businesses. Want one? Go to Google’s Local Business Center and learn how to become one of Google’s Favorite Places.
Real time search: This next addition brings “a dynamic stream of real-time content from across the web” to Google. After you make a search in Google you will see pane of constantly updated news and information from other people on the Internet. This stream of information comes from places like Twitter, FriendFeed, and news and blog posts that relate to your search keyword. “Our real-time search enables you to discover breaking news the moment it’s happening, even if it’s not the popular news of the day, and even if you didn’t know about it beforehand.” Here’s a couple examples: (1) You search the keyword “Pirate Radio film.” As usual, Google will provide links to theaters, Wikipedia and IMDB information, and so on. What’s new is a information pane located above all that; this window contains a constantly updated stream of the freshest information about the movie. For example, you may find a number of Tweets that relay people’s reaction to the movie, or you may stumble upon a recent full length review of the movie by a film blog. (2) You search the keyword “traffic on 101.” In the pane you will find the most up-to-date traffic information about that particular highway. For example, there might be Tweet with attached Twitpics visually showing the bumper-to-bumper traffic or news reports on accidents or alternative routes. “Our real-time search features are based on more than a dozen new search technologies that enable us to monitor more than a billion documents and process hundreds of millions of real-time changes each day.” Some of Google’s partners include Facebook, MySpace, FriendFeed, Jaiku and Identi.ca, and Twitter. Google will also be implementing a “Hot Topics” panel akin to Twitter’s Trending Topics that will display the most popular stories people are talking about. Real time search implementation is rolling out over the next few weeks.
In other Google news: (1) Google is coming out with a language translator that allows users to speak English into their cell phones and receive an instantaneous translation into Spanish. Expect this tech to hit phones sometime next year. (2) Google Chrome beta is now available for Mac users. PC and Linux users, there are now over 300 extensions available for your versions of Google Chrome (Mac compatibility is coming).
After hearing many rumors about Google concocting an operating system of its own, the company has officially given word that it is indeed creating a full-fledged operating system extending from its Chrome web browser. According to the official developer blog, “Google Chrome OS is an open source, lightweight operating system that will initially be targeted at netbooks” and “most of the user experience takes place on the web.” “That is, it’s “Google Chrome running within a new windowing system on top of a Linux kernel” with the web as the platform.” It will be capable of running on Intel Atom chips and ARM processors. Google responded to the current rumors about its mobile Android OS making a jump from cell phones (think T-Mobile G1) to netbook computers (think Eee PCs): “…choice will drive innovation for the benefit of everyone, including Google.” Google plans on releasing the new OS onto netbooks in the second half of 2010. Until Google reveals more information and the overall plan for the Chrome OS, there is not much else to say on this matter. One thing’s for sure, though–with Google plunging into the OS wars with Microsoft, Apple, and Linux, only good things can come from competition like this. So exciting!