GOOGLE wants to store your photos, replace your wallet, connect your appliances to the internet, and scan all your messages to remind you to pick up the dry cleaning.
The internet giant’s aggressive plans, including an offer of free unlimited photo storage for all consumers, were revealed at its annual developers’ conference in San Francisco early this morning.
But the sold-out Google I/O conference featured few new hardware announcements, other than an update to its virtual reality creation Google Cardboard, and did not reveal more about its build-it-yourself smartphone or driverless cars as rumoured.
ALL YOUR PHOTOS
Unlimited storage ... Google Photos director Anil Sabharwal announces Google Photos. Picture: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images/AFPSource: AFP
Chief among the Google I/O announcements was Google Photos, which will deliver free, unlimited photo storage from the web, or a Google or Apple-based phone when it is launched later today.
Google Photos lead product manager Anil Sabharwal said the new app was designed to store, organise and index the overwhelming number of photos taken by smartphone users, and would save photos up to 16 megapixels in size at “near identical” resolution.
Google would also scan faces, places and dates of photographs saved to Photos, he said, so they could be listed and searched by keywords. Photos at a baseball game could be discovered by typing ‘baseball’ into the app’s search bar, for example.
“We want everyone to safely backup and store a lifetime of memories,” Mr Sabharwal said.
Google’s free storage offer will put the company in direct competition with Yahoo’s Flickr that offers one terabyte of free storage and Dropbox that only offers two gigabytes of photo space for free.
Display and pay ... Google Android Wear smart watches on display at the conference. Picture: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images/AFPSource: AFP
Google also revealed plans to replace the humble wallet at the event. Dubbed Android Pay, the new system will replace Google Wallet and let users pay for goods by swiping NFC-equipped smartphones at the cash register.
Google engineering vice-president David Burke said the new system would work with older phones running Android KitKat software when it is released, but could be unlocked more easily on newer phones offering fingerprint scanners.
“All you have to do is unlock your phone like normal, place your phone in front of the reader and pay. It’s that simple,” he said.
Android Pay could also be used to make online purchases, Mr Burke said, automatically logging a user in and filling out payment and delivery details.
The Google-based payment service would be accepted at a large number of retailers in the United States including McDonald’s and Best Buy, but an Australian spokesman said it would only be available in the US for now.
‘The beginning of a journey’ ... Google senior vice president of product Sundar Pichai delivers the keynote address during the 2015 Google I/O conference. Picture: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images/AFPSource: AFP
In a move likely to prove significant over time, Google also revealed plans to launch software to connect everyday appliances, powering the Internet of Things trend.
Google’s Brillo software, and a communications layer called Weave, could be used to connect household appliances to smartphones so people could turn on their ovens with an app.
Google products senior vice-president Sundar Pichai said Brillo would be a stripped-down version of Android software so it could run on everyday items such as internet-connected washing machines and door locks.
“This is the beginning of a journey,” he said. “We hope we can connect devices in a seamless and intuitive way and make them work better for you.”
The software will be available late this year.
It’s so tech-citing ... an attendee uses a selfie stick to take photographs before the start of the opening address. Picture: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images/AFPSource: AFP
In a development that may concern some, Google also revealed a more advanced version of its Google Now app called Now on Tap designed to anticipate your movements.
Google Now director Aparna Chennapragada said the app, triggered when a user holds down a phone’s home button, would scan text messages, emails or websites to guess what the user needed.
Having received a message from her husband that he could not pick up dry cleaning, for example, “Google Now created a smart reminder card for me to pick up the dry cleaning. The computer scientist in me is practically giddy with excitement,” she said.
It also displayed the phone number of the dry cleaner in question, even though he had not named it in the message.
Ms Chennapragada said the app, delivered in Android M later this year, could also be used to collate a user’s future holiday bookings, predict when they might need a taxi, or look up restaurants mentioned in emails.
Step into a different reality ... Google Cardboard.Source: Supplied
Google did not reveal a new virtual reality device at the event, as many pundits forecast, but updated its Google Cardboard virtual reality viewer to accept phones with screens up to six inches (15cm) in size, and revealed it would allow Apple iPhone users to use the virtual reality viewer for the first time.
Google product management vice-president Clay Bavor said the company had also partnered with camera maker GoPro to develop a 16-camera circular rig using its technology, called Jump, to produce virtual reality content for Google Cardboard.
“The world is filled with all of these awesome place like Great Barrier Reefs and Golden Gate Bridges and mountain tops but you can’t quite go back there,” he said. “We want to put professional, previously impossible tools in the hands of any creator.”
Mr Bavor said Google would also distribute Cardboard kits, with smartphones and tablets, to schools to allow children to experience virtual world tours.
Are you ready to jump? ... Google vice president of product management Clay Bavor announces 'Jump' during the 2015 Google I/O conference. Picture: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images/AFPSource: AFP
PHONE AND WATCH UPDATES
There were no new smartphones or smartwatches revealed at Google’s annual developers’ conference, defying predictions, but there were plenty of software updates announced for both.
Android Wear-powered smartwatches will receive future updates that let users switch between notifications by flicking their wrists, and lets them draw emojjis and send them via SMS.
Smartphones with the future Android M software will also allow users to stop apps accessing parts of their phone, and Google will support USB Type C connections in future phones, like the cord used on Apple’s recent MacBook.
Google will have a sizeable job to compete with its Cupertino rival this year, however, after falling 1.9 per cent in worldwide smartphone sales in the first quarter of the year, according to Gartner, and selling just 720,000 Android Wear smartwatches last year, according to Canalys.