Google's I/O 2016 annual developer conference has kicked off in San Francisco, with the opening keynote hosted by Sundar Pichai and chums, announcing a range of developments for Google and Android.
Google uses I/O to unveil the next major updates to Android and showcase upcoming products, both hardware and software. It goes into the nitty-gritty of the Android world, it talks about the wider Google ecosystem, it launches new hardware and talks about future developments.
Google I/O is a developer conference, but there are plenty of announcements that are exciting for everyone. Here's everything you missed from the opening keynote.
Where can I watch Google I/O?
The opening keynote has been and gone, but you can relive the experience if you want to watch the action unfold in the video below - it's 2 hours long, so you might want to grab a drink.
Google I/O 2016: The announcements that matter
Google kicked off Google I/O detailing Google Assistant. Assistant is really a repackaging of Google's core smart service, combining the great natural language services it already offers with its deep search offering, creating a new Assistant that is designed to be a conversational digital buddy.
The scope of Google Assistant is vast. Where you've previously been able to ask Google questions, the idea is that Assistant will have a better idea of why you're asking a question, so it can take the next logical action. For example, you might ask what's on at the cinema, with Assistant not only giving you the details, but also offering to get you tickets.
Taking things further, Assistant is designed to work across all your Google properties, making everything smarter. One of the first implementations of Google Assistant will be on Google Home, one of Google's headline announcements at Google I/O.
One of the top announcements in the keynote was Google Home. Like the Amazon Echo, Google Home is a multi-functional smart device that lives in your home. It's designed to integrate with everything and exists as a voice-activated device that sits in your home as a hub. It can use Google Assistant to interact with a whole load of different services, from changing your calendar appointments, acting as a Chromecast for your music, turning your lights on and more.
Google Home looks a little like an air freshener, but will come with a range of different bases, so you can find a style to suit your home decor.
Google Home will be available later in 2016, pricing and availability yet to be confirmed.
READ MORE Google Home aims to take on Amazon Echo
Google Allo and Duo
Google announced two new apps at Google I/O 2016, looking to supercharge communication. The first app, called Allo, is a super-slick chat app to take on the likes of WhatsApp. It will offer lots of fun features, but will also integrate Google Assistant.
The additional smart integration means that if you're discussing where to have dinner with a friend, for example, you'll be able to find locations and even make bookings through OpenTable from inside Allo without having to leave it. There are also a range of fun features, like picture recognition and reply suggestions, designed to keep the conversation flowing with minimal effort.
There's also an Incognito mode for those who want to keep their chats really private, like those buying gifts for their partner, or having inappropriate drunken conversations with their ex, perhaps.
In addition to chat, Google is also taking on video, with a new app called Duo. This is designed to be a streamlined video chat companion to Allo, built to be lightweight and fun, and work well on poor connections. It also contains a neat feature called Knock Knock, which sees the caller being able to interact while your phone is "ringing". You'll see them pulling faces, or perhaps pulling something else, before you answer the call.
Both Allo and Duo will be available for Android and iOS later in the year.
Major updates to Android happen every year and Google is currently working through the alphabet with its codenames. This year's update goes by Android N, though it'll eventually get a dessert-inspired name. Google outlined many of the new features in Android N, which is designed to be faster and more productive than previous editions, with a range of new features, like split-screen and instant return to the previous app you were using.
Google confirmed that another preview build is available now, but importantly, there's still no name. Instead, Google is inviting everyone to submit suggestions via Android.com/n. We're still voting for Nutella. Mmmmm, Nutella.
One of the big pieces of news from Google I/O was Daydream. This is the name for the new face of Android VR, evolving Google Cardboard for a more serious VR proposition, better placed to take on the likes of Samsung's Gear VR.
Daydream focuses on three things: the smartphone, the hardware you use, and the apps.
Firstly, there will be a specification for Daydream phones, so that you know you're getting hardware to best work with the VR world. Secondly, Google has produced a reference design for a new VR headset and a VR controller. This is designed to let others build VR accessories for Daydream, and move on from the old cardboard DIY approach.
Thirdly, Daydream takes a big step over Cardboard in introducing Daydream Home, a central place you go to control your VR software experience. You'll be able to access apps in VR, you'll be able to use other Google services in VR (like YouTube, Play Movies and Google Photos), which is something of a jilted experience in Cardboard currently.
Importantly, Daydream is part of Android N, and you can expect to see Daydream-ready hardware appearing around the same time as the Android N launch, in Autumn/Fall 2016.
Android Wear 2.0
As expected, Google announced an update to Android Wear that's designed to see Android mobile devices getting more independent. One of the big changes is making Wear apps able to access data directly without having to go via your phone.
The Wear 2.0 experience is designed to be better for fitness, automatically detecting the sort of activity you're doing, as well as offering other options, like starting your Spotify music when you head out for a run.
Google is also adding a keyboard to Android Wear, meaning that LTE connected devices will work as a much more complete messaging device, allowing you to do more.
The update to Android Wear 2.0 will appear later in the year.
Android Instant Apps
Away from some of the big consumer changes, Google introduced Android Instant Apps. This represents a fundamental change to how apps are managed, the idea being that you can access some app's services without having to install the entire app. For example, you might want to pay for parking, but don't want to download an app just for one single payment. With Android Instant Apps, you'll be able to get just the part you need to pay for your parking quickly and easily.
This will require developers to modularise their apps so that access to some elements can be achieved without having a full download. Ideally, this might mean you can buy things through an app, rather than through a browser, using Android Pay.
Android Instant Apps will take time to implement, but thankfully it's going to be supported on devices all the way back to Jelly Bean.