MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. - Google will have a very deep and personalized role throughout your day should all the company's efforts announced at the annual Google I/O conference come to fruition.
With bold initiatives in artificial intelligence, virtual reality and a tightening relationship between Android and Chrome, Google is poised to get ever closer towards its founding mission to "organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful." It just plans to do that on a very personal level.
The various new products and software plans were rolled out at the Shoreline Amphitheatre, a first for a conference that in the past several years was held at San Francisco's Moscone Center.
Your Personal Google
The grand vision was laid out during the keynote, in which CEO Sundar Pichai described how artificial intelligence is the future of computing. One visible evidence of this is through the Google assistant, an always-on bot that will further augment the company's mobile search applications and potentially other Google products.
A practical example of how this will play out is with Allo, a forthcoming messaging app that lets you embed cards and other information pulled instantly from Google search. And the company's predictive powers will let you offer auto-replies, much like with its Inbox email application.
Pichai said Google's artificial intelligence capabilities are designed to turn the service into a helpful sage for many areas of your life.
"We want to be there for our users, asking them, 'Hi, how can I help?'" he said. "This enables an ongoing, two-way dialogue with Google. We want to do it for you in your context and give you control of it, enabling each user to build their own individual Google."
Building artificial intelligence into an operating system isn't a completely new innovation. Google is trying to catch up to competitors like Facebook, Microsoft and Apple, which have their own bots and have made other forays into virtual and augmented reality. But the overall theme was that Google feels it can do better, given its super-smart contextual awareness driven by its search powers.
That means listening in from the kitchen counter, if need be. Google Home is the company’s competitor to the Amazon Echo, which will debut later this year. And Allo will be complemented by Duo, a video messaging application. Then there's the leap into virtual reality with the Daydream platform, which will compete with Facebook's Oculus Rift and VR efforts by Samsung, HTC, and others.
Putting Android and Chrome to Work
The playground atmosphere, which included temporary tents interspersed by a pirate ship, Volkswagen Bus and hammock chairs contrasted with a more buttoned-down approach that Google took during a panel discussion of the company's enterprise efforts.
On hand at Google's campus was Diane Green, a senior vice president leading the ambitious effort to push Google Cloud to the front of the enterprise world. She said even though Google is still pretty new on the scene compared to other cloud providers, the company's reputation for data prowess has earned Google attention from companies who want to start or expand their backend and other cloud capabilities.
"We are quite enterprise ready and they're seeing that and the strengths in our infrastructure. And companies see they can have a hybrid strategy like a move into containers or other areas," she said.
This conversation preceded another announcement that positions the Chromebook as a more versatile computer: Android apps will soon work in Chrome OS via the Google Play Store.
During the demo, Google executives showed how one could format a document with Word for Android, add in an image, email the file, and also use Facebook Messenger chat heads to take a break for an instant message session.
Kan Liu, Chrome's product manager, said Chromebooks are gaining interest in the business world.
"We're seeing strong growth from enterprise, where Chromebooks, Chromebox for meetings, and other purpose built Chrome devices have been adopted," he said.
Of course it’s the type of thing you’ve been able to do with native applications on Windows or the Mac for a long time. It’s an admission that the web alone isn't enough for those who want greater productivity, especially amongst enterprise users who need to get their work done even if they're in an Internet dead zone.
You'll have to wait for the feature, much like most of the announcements made during the week at I/O. The Play Store will first roll out to the latest Chromebook Pixel, Asus Chromebook Flip, and Asus Chromebook R11 in a developer release. Older devices, even the first-generation Pixel, won't be compatible. Google published a full list of devices that are in line for the Play Store.