Google I/O 2016
The I/O developers conference is Google's biggest event of the year, and luckily, 2016 didn't disappoint: yesterday's keynote address was packed with announcements for software and hardware alike.
Android N saw a deeper dive before its release later this year, but the real highlights were things like Google's Daydream VR push and the Amazon Echo-esque Home voice assistant. Even Chrome OS and Android Wear got in on the fun, plus Google has some important new apps coming for both Android and iPhone.
We covered the day's announcements extensively, but if you need a quick catch-up, look no further: here are the seven biggest stories that have come out of I/O 2016 so far.
1) Daydream becomes reality
Google Daydream headset spec
Cardboard is no longer the extent of Google's VR ambitions: two years after launching that makeshift platform, the company revealed Daydream, a VR standard that will be built right into Android N. It's phone-based VR on a level that's akin to Samsung's Gear VR, albeit with some important differences.
Several manufacturers, including Samsung, HTC, LG, and Huawei, will each make Daydream-compatible smartphones and quite likely their own matching headset shells, too, as well as a one-handed motion controller. And Android N will be primed to work in a special VR mode, with reduced latency and even notifications that pop up properly in your virtual view.
The first phones and headsets (with controller included, we presume) will begin releasing this autumn, and Google is providing the specifications for all the hardware makers to match.
2) Is anyone Home?
The rumours are true: Google has its own Amazon Echo rival in the works, and it's called Google Home. Powered by a smarter version of the Google Assistant, Home is an attractive little speaker that sits in your flat and is ready at your beck and call to answer queries, pull up information from the web, and buy you movie tickets (with your money) and have a QR code ready and waiting on your phone.
It'll do much more, however. You can ask for a YouTube clip and send it to your Chromecast on the TV, or have music play on all of your Home speakers – you'll want several, right? It'll even play nice with other connected home tech like Nest's smart thermostat, smoke detector, and webcams. Google Home won't be sweet in your home until later this year, however.
3) Android N explored
We already knew Android N was coming. Beyond it being an obvious conclusion, Google surprise-released developer builds back in March. Still, there's a lot we don't know yet about the still-to-be-named successor to Marshmallow, and Google dug into some of it during the keynote address.
For example, the new Vulkan 3D graphics API will deliver show-stopping gaming visuals. Other enhancements promise speedier installation times, better battery life, and finally an end to that terrible "Android is starting" post-update app optimisation screen. Phew.
And that's just scratching the surface. Be sure to read our look at the 10 things you need to know about Android N, but Google is likely to share even more in the months ahead. Android N is due out in late summer, but a proper beta version is available now for recent Nexus devices and select others as well.