Google launched Annual I/O Developers Conference Wednesday. As usual, the company took the opportunity to announce a range of new hardware products and software updates.
While shiny new gadgets may have stolen the show — you get to know the Pixel Watch, new Pixel phones, and other things announced in our separate story — I/O is still primarily a software affair. To that end, Google used its main event to detail an astonishing array of new features for Android, Search, Maps, and Google’s voice assistant services.
Here are the biggest updates Google has announced.
We got some additional details about the next version of Android, Google’s mobile operating system. When Android 13 arrives this fall, it will introduce some updates that make the operating system more secure and interoperable with other devices around you. Google Messaging will expand its support for the RCS text messaging standard, providing end-to-end encryption for group texts. Multilingual users will be able to set specific apps to use specific languages, so you can search in English and tweet in German. Support for quick pairing will be included with devices that use the Matter smart home standard, and it will be easier to send videos or photos to more TVs, monitors and other screens in your home with additional support for more manufacturers’ products.
We’ll be taking a deeper look at Android 13 when it comes close to arriving later this year.
Google found its wallet
The company has revived its previously abandoned Google Wallet name and brand, and the updated app will become the virtual digital currency container for Android. Wallet will attach to your device and carry all your credit cards, transit cards, vaccine checks, and even your Park Card to Disney World. If you’re thinking, “Wait, this looks just like Google Pay, and it’s something that already exists,” then you’re correct. Wallet is basically the same as Google Pay, except that Google says its Wallet app will soon support digital IDs, including drivers’ licenses. Google usually eliminates its own services frequently, so we’ll see how long both options last.
New security features
Google has also put a variety of new additions to its software platforms aimed at protecting against cyber attacks. It improves its two-factor authentication system and enables it by default on Google accounts. Gmail phishing protection is moved to the Google office suite (Documents, Sheets, and Slides). It will also determine when account settings can be changed to better protect privacy.
A new feature called Virtual Cards aims to keep your credit card information private while you shop. When autofilling credit card information, virtual cards will generate a random card number and prevent you from having to manually enter sensitive information into some potentially suspicious storefronts.
Read Lily Newman’s WIRED story about all the new privacy and security features from Google.
Welcome to multiple search
Last month, Google rolled out a feature called Multisearch. It allows you to combine items into a single search query, such as using an image and text at the same time. Soon, multiple search will get a new modification. The feature, called Near Me, lets you pinpoint your location during multiple searches, helping to identify local restaurants or stores based on photos and text. Multisearch Near Me will be available globally later this year, although it only works with English input for now.
The next feature in Google Maps is something Google calls Universal View. It’s a kind of illusory Street View that lets you scroll to move around in a 3D space rendered by CGI. It can simulate entire cities, even the insides of offices and restaurants. You won’t see a 100 percent accurate view, because a lot of it is based on user photos and then populated with an algorithm. Google says the feature will work on any smartphone and is rolling out in “select cities” this year.
Google has taken steps to make its voice assistant understand more of the nuances of a conversation and react accordingly. A new feature called Look and Talk, which is available exclusively on the Nest Hub Max, aims to make talking to the voice assistant less like yelling at a slab of concrete. You won’t have to say “OK Google” anymore, because the system is designed to recognize when you ask a question. To do this, the Nest Hub Max uses its built-in camera to monitor how close you are to the device, the way your head is directed, and the way your gaze is directed. So it can detect if you are looking at the device and waiting for an answer.
The assistant also allows for pauses in the query, in case you need a second to get your ideas together. Just like talking to someone! The company hasn’t said if Google Assistant will be able to love.