The 8 coolest things we learnt from the Google I/O 2017 keynote

New VR headsets! A smarter Google Assistant! And, er, printed photo albums...

For a certain vintage of geek, Google I/O is pretty much like Christmas. An annual extravaganza for all things Android, search and VR, it sees the Big G unveil its latest innovations for the first time.

While this year’s Google I/O wasn’t quite the blockbuster affair we’ve seen before, it still offered up loads of exciting stuff for gadget fans.

From smartphone-free VR headsets to a brand new version of Android, there’s loads that’s worth knowing from the developer conference’s keynote speech.

Luckily enough, we’ve rounded it all up for you in one handy compendium. We’re nice like that.

1) Google Lens will make your phone’s camera 100x smarter

Still searching with your voice or words? That’s old hat. Google Lens is here for a newfangled means of information discovery.

Just point your phone’s camera in the direction of something interesting. Then it’ll recognise what it’s looking at and tell you more about it. Whether you wanna find out what kind of flowers you just strolled across, quickly pick up your mate’s Wi-Fi password or book a table at a local restaurant, Google Lens has got you covered.

It’s not an entirely new idea - indeed, Samsung’s Bixby virtual assistant can do much the same thing within Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus phones - but given Google’s years of search experience, we’re betting it’ll do a great job of it.

2) The future of VR is smartphone-free

Despite already having a couple of phone-based VR platforms in the form of Cardboard and Daydream, Google’s decided that VR needn’t involve a smartphone at all. Or, indeed, a PC or games console à la Oculus Rift and PlayStation VR.

Instead, it’s building its own portable, standalone devices, with some help from HTC and LG. Both devices will be cable-free and are expected to arrive later this year. If you're after some entry-level VR that doesn't swallow up your phone, they could be very exciting indeed.

3) Google Daydream is coming to the Samsung Galaxy S8

In a list of things we weren’t expecting to hear at I/O 2017, Samsung’s Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus phones getting Google Daydream support would’ve ranked pretty highly. But that’s exactly what we did hear.

Yes, despite Samsung already having its own VR platform, Gear VR, and despite that platform being a direct rival to Daydream, both handsets will become Daydream compatible this summer via an update.

An as-yet-unannounced LG phone will also support the platform, alongside Google’s two Pixel phones, the forthcoming Asus ZenFone AR, the Huawei Mate 9 and the ZTE Axon 7.

4) You’ll soon be able to make phone calls on your Google Home speaker

Google Home might still be finding its feet in the UK, but there are some cool new features heading down the pipeline to make it an even better A.I friend.

In the US and Canada, it'll be getting hands-free phone calls to help it take the fight to Amazon's Echos. You'll be able to call any landline or mobile number within either country in the next few months for free. Whether or not we'll be treated to the same feature in the UK remains to be seen.

Still, a potentially more useful (and scary) feature coming to all Homes is 'proactive assistance', which will see the Home nudge you with contextual info. For example, if it sees you've got an trip coming up in your calendar and the traffic is looking heavy, its circle will start glowing – say "Hey Google, what's up?" and it'll tell you to leave early, along with a suggested route.

This all sounds great in theory (and certainly trumps the Echo), but as Google Now has never quite lived up to its promise, we'll reserve judgement till we see it in action.

There was one final bit of good news for Spotify fans too – its free, ad-based service will now be coming to Google Home too.

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