Developer Aspirations

YAPB - Yet Another Programming Blog

Friday

27

June 2014

Google I/O 2014

by Colin Miller

I was able to attend Google I/O this year and I wanted to give my thoughts. This may be a bit rambly as I'm still processing the things I saw and experienced. I'll break it down into sections of the highlights of what I found interesting.

Keynote

I missed the first part of the keynote due to the huge line that it was to get in. I was waiting for an hour and a half before I got let in. Still, I managed to catch most of it. For me the keynote just made me aware of the technologies and tools that I learned more about. Since I'll get to those in their own sections, I won't bother summarizing here. The most unique aspect of the keynote were the various protesters that had to be escorted out. After that though it was just a normal presentation.

Android Auto

This announcement surprised me, but I really liked what I saw. The main idea is to create a common development platform for car apps like there is for phones.

If you remember, before iOS and Android, phones used to have very different development environments and for most it was impossible for a random 3rd party to write an app for any phone. Even if you went through the hoops with both the manufacturer and the carrier, you still could only release an app for one model of phone. There really wasn't a common platform for development. It seems insane now, but welcome to 2007.

The car computer industry is in a similar place now as phones were then. Probably worse actually as its even harder now to get an app on a car than it was to get an app on a phone (and it was really hard then). There's no common platform or development environment, and no good guidelines on how to write a car app.

Opening up that power to any developer to have an app that you can interact with hands free is amazing. It could change the way people interact with their cars, and hopefully for the better. I'm hoping people pick up narrating text replies rather than trying to type on their touch screen while driving. I also just look forward to messing around with it as I think there is some huge innovation potential there.

Android TV

This one was sort of humorous to me. Didn't Google release Google TV not that long ago? Is this giving up on that and just focusing on android? I mean, they probably should since a common platform will make everyone's lives easier, it just makes their previous efforts look odd in retrospect.

Regardless, looking at the tools and setup of Android TV looks pretty sweet. I'm hoping they can make a chromecast-like device that's small and can just plug into the HDMI port of your TV and make it an Android TV, but maybe not considering they want interaction with live TV. I had been thinking of upgrading my TV, and now I know I'm going to wait until one of the models that comes with it comes out.

Android Wear

I knew they would be talking about Android wear since this is their newest initiative that's closest to release. I even suspected the free gadget was going to be a wear device (it was actually 2 of them). I admit, I was slightly disappointed when I first heard this. I haven't worn a wrist watch in years. No need when you have a cell phone on you all of the time which is a perfectly viable clock.

I've only been using it for part of a day, but so far I'm really surprised how useful and nice it is. I can get all of my notifications to my watch. This means when my watch buzzes because my wife sent me an IM, I can glance at my wrist rather than fish my phone out of my pocket. I can even reply with voice recognition, or select from a preset list (which I hope they let you customize). Calendar and weather updates show on it which is really nice, and you can fire off text messages just by talking to it.

Now I admit, the talking part is still weird. I feel weird talking to my Xbox One, I feel weird talking to my phone (for commands), and I feel weird talking into my watch. At least with my watch I do sort of feel like a spy which is cool.

In crowded and louder areas its not so bad because you can put the watch pretty close to you and speak mostly quietly and not worry as much about other people. I doubt I'd use the voice function in a meeting or any place that's mostly quiet where there's still people around.

That being said, replying to a text while your hands are full of stuff is pretty awesome. Even just being able to read them while your hands are full is nice. I'm definitely going to write apps for wear.

Google Cloud Save

I am amazed at how incredibly excited I am about this service. Its probably what I liked the most out of the conference for the simple reason of it solves 2 problems I have with the personal project I'm currently writing.

Storing data on a phone is annoying. DBs are often more heavyweight than I'd like them to be and just storing flat files of JSON has parsing slowdowns and no good query support. GCS is awesome because it's just a simple key/value store that you don't have to maintain or do much for. It can be queried, stores seamlessly, and it looks easy to update the schema.

As a huge bonus, it also takes care of data synchronization between multiple devices for free. I wasn't even going to add that into my current app, but of it's provided for free, why not? I only wish there was a pure offline version of it, but I may just steal the API and write that myself.

Device Unlocking

A small but quite intelligent way of unlocking phones is being added to Android. I always get annoyed by having to type in a pin or make some symbol or such every time I want to look at something. In an effort to make unlocking the phone effortless, they're letting users define a bluetooth device as a 'key' to unlocking the phone. If you have the device in range, the phone will just unlock with no pin. If you're removed from that device, you'll require a pin again.

It can also work with trusted locations so while you're at home, even if you don't have that device you can unlock your phone without a pin. This whole setup matches pretty perfectly with Google Wear. In addition, it sounds like they want to use the phone to do things like unlock your computer if you have it on you without a password. The idea of your device being a key to your identity is pretty interesting. I wonder how hard it would be to duplicate, but as a concept it sure does sound convenient.

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