Google I/O news

Google made a slew of announcements this week on new projects, updated plans, and what’s next for Google. Here are the most interesting announcements of the week.

Google’s next operating system, code named Android N, is apparently far enough along that Google thinks it's ready for more people to try it out. This third beta release is out now. If you want to opt in, you'll be able to do so at Android's website. You can also submit what you think the “N” in Android N should be since Google is taking name submissions.

Google announced a voice-activated device called Home that has a speaker in the base and integrates with other cast devices like Chromecast Video and audio, and supports home networking systems for Home Control. Google Home won't arrive until later this year so Amazon’s Echo doesn’t have to worry until then.

Google also announced a messaging app called Allo.  It includes a the voice-activated smart assistant and an incognito mode that offers, end-to-end encryption, discreet notifications and permanent deletion of messages. It's coming to iOS and Android this summer. https://youtu.be/QJ3WV8N92Hs

Google also announced VR Mode in Android N and the Daydream platform for VR development which gives VR apps exclusive access to the device’s processor cores. Looks like Google’s recognized the success of the GearVR and wants all devices running android to be able to get VR now. https://youtu.be/KNR4j1DJ4Cc

Google’s VR Head Clay Bavor confirmed Google will sell its own version of DayDream VR gear saying on stage at I/O, “And, by the way, it’s not just going to be partners building from the reference design, we, Google, are also going to build a controller and a headset and make it available.” Google is partnering with Epic Games and the Unity on the motion-sensing controller.

Try Oculus at Best Buy

Today Oculus announced details of their plan to let users try out the Oculus Rift in Best Buy stores starting May 7th. Initially in 48 Best Buys, you’ll get to try demos like Oculus Dreamdeck, The Climb, and in the coming weeks, you’ll be able to explore the beautiful alien world of Farland.

There will also be a small number of Oculus Rifts to purchase at Best Buy and Amazon stores on May 7th. You don’t have to get angry if you’re still on that 3 month pre-order waiting list though. Oculus says you can opt to buy one of these Rifts in store at Best Buy and you’ll still get to keep your pre-order bonuses, just let them know so they won’t charge you again.

You can schedule your Rift demo with Oculus Live at Best Buy locations up to a month in advance. Guess they’re expecting quiet the rush.

Facebook Chatbots and VR camera

Further proving this is the year of bots and VR, Facebook announced some interesting new products.

·       Facebook announced “Agents on Messenger” a program for business to create chatbots for customer service, ecommerce and more. Customers can send a text to the chat and the Chatbots can respond with texts, custom links, and buttons that would allow users ask questions, to pay for items, or book rooms.


·       Facebook also launched a Live video API that lets you broadcast to Facebook from any device.

·       The company also revealed an open source VR camera called Surround 360. The 17-lens camera require almost no post-production work. Rather than selling it Facebook will open source the designs and video stitching-algorithms and post to Github. Parts are estimated to cost $30,000.

Live Streamed Surgery using VR

Medical Realities, a company that uses VR and augmented reality as a medical education tool, is set to host the first live VR stream of surgery on April 14th, using a 360-degree camera to show the entire operating table. You'll only need the company's app and Google Cardboard (or a viable alternative) to tune in. The surgery isn't particularly risky (it's a fairly standard tumor removal), but the company is aware of the dangers -- the feed is delayed by a minute in case something goes awry.

HTC Vive ships

This week the HTC Vive, the main Oculus VR competitor, has begun shipping this week. While the fervor in the media has not been quiet as high as Oculus’ release last week, the reviews have been good. Most reviews admit the Oculus Rift is more comfortable and the screen is slightly better, the Vive’s hand controls and the ability to move around a room are more immersive.

However, Endgadget reports that both Oculus and HTC are shipping their new VR headsets slower than expected. Oculus told Rift pre-order customers that the delay is due to a component shortage. Oculus will update preoders on April 12th and give free shipping. Some HTC Vive orders were declined by credit card companies causing some folks to lose their order or be bumped to the end of the waiting list. HTC says it is working to put everyone back in the right order.

Oculus Rift Delivery

The first consumer versions of the Oculus rift arrived this week and the internets have been going crazy. The very first rift was hand delivered in Alaska by founder Palmer Luckey to the 1st person who preorder it. Luckey live streamed the event on Facebook Live. Overall the reviews of the rift, with its included games Lucky’s Tale and Eve Valkyrie, have been very positive. However, take into account that there’s not anything else to compare it to right now since it’s the only consumer VR headset available. The HTC Vive ships in April.