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Google Unveils Software Plans at I/O; Googlefest 2015 Date Set
Published:
6/3/2015 3:35:06 PM


Goggle Now demonstration: By tapping the microphone icon on the top right of the screen, I asked my phone "what is Juneteenth"? It responded with a vocalized definition of the holiday and displayed related weblinks on the subject
 
By Damion Smalls
 
 
Tech giant Google made several huge announcements last week during its annual Google I/O conference, promoting their agenda for the upcoming year with some welcome surprises and intriguing additions. Taking place May 28-29, the annual conference brought together industry experts and officials for informative sessions and dialogue, along with updates on software development pitched by the Mountain View-based monolith.
 
For the past eight years, Google has maintained its venerable presence in the state with its game-changing Berkeley County data center. In that time, the company has proven its worth by championing initiatives such as doubling down on its commitment to green environments, helping SC businesses expand their reach, keeping the area on the pulse in the ever-changing technological landscape, and developing the innovative Google CS First program for schools.
   
Around the city, Google I/O Extended was a gathering at King Street’s American Theater May 28 where interested parties convened to watch the keynote address announcement live, which was filmed at the Moscone Center West in San Francisco. Attendees networked, observed videos, and heard TechTalks from Googlers through the day.  The event concluded with after-hours party on the rooftop at local favorite Stars Restaurant.
 
There were many articles discussed during this year’s I/O that transversed between the simple (Google Play’s newly launched kid-friendly section, the Family Store) to the esoteric (Project Jacquard, which turns clothing into a working interface, like a touchscreen or mousepad). Here are the top seven items that Google touted last week, in no particular order:

     1) Android M: The workhorse behind Google’s future smartphones is fast on the horizon as anticipation grows steadily. Promising safer app permissions, more efficient battery life, app to app linking, custom Chrome tabs and more, the operating system figures to be the new heavyweight in the ring going head to head with Apple iOS 8. It stands to play a vital role in the rollout of the six items highlighted below.

     2) The Internet of Things (IoT): Project Brillo is the operating system that will work with smart gadgets in the home. The implications are vast: app-controlled microwaves, perfectly set AC settings year-around, remote access to your entire connected infrastructure has eyes wide with anticipation. Basically, we’re gradually on our way to having our own J.A.R.V.I.S.-like system in our homes like Tony Stark (or The Jetsons, for that matter). A win-win for everyone.


     3) Google Photos: Finally breaking off from the struggling Google Plus network, the newly standalone service has instantly been rejuvenated. Unlimited storage for photos (up to 16 megapixels) and videos (up to 1080p high definition resolution). Specialized tagging features. Photo editing. Facilitated sharing options. Along with its Camera app and the image recognition Goggles program, Google takes its next logical step into indexing all the data in world. Mars, you’re next.

 
     4) Offline Support: Not connected to the internet? It’s not such a crisis now with new offerings from Google that allow access to YouTube videos and a highly detailed version of Maps on mobile devices free of web usage. Stored videos and navigated routes are bound to be commonplace in our immediate future. R.I.P. GPS-only products.

 
     5) Android Pay: The future is now with this credit card-replacing, fingerprint authenticating, tap-to-pay competitor to Apple Pay. Striving to be more user-friendly and streamlined, hundreds of thousands of retailers will make it easy for users to purchase items with their mobile devices when it is released later this year. Security stands to be its major obstacle, but steps are currently being examined thoroughly by the company.

 
     6) Chromecast upgrades: The diminutive and inexpensive media player will be fitted with improved gaming capabilities, AutoPlay features, HBO Now support, motion control, and the option to your mobile device to be viewed as a second screen to your television. Nifty, indeed.

 
     7)Wearable Technology: The proliferation of Android Wear marches on as smartwatches gain more traction as necessary products as opposed to the novelty toys they seemed to be years ago. Components including gesture control, wi-fi functionality, and always-on Google Maps look to enhance the profile of smartwatches this year. 4,000 apps are already compatible with Wear.

 
Other tidbits of note include the a new version of the low-cost virtual reality headset Google Cardboard (which were on hand at I/O Extended), the release of Gmail alternative Inbox to the general public, and the beginning of Android TV’s revamp with new apps like FXNow, WWE, and USA Today. Keep an eye out for even more news from Google as they continue to raise the stakes in the tech game.
 
The assembly was not without its shortcomings, though. Multiple presenters delivered cringe-worthy attempts at connecting with the younger generation; examples being their insistence that people actually use the term “selfie” in normal conversation and are all die-hard Skrillex fans.
 
More importantly, they attempted to gloss over the lack of diversity within the organization by using a strategic assortment of presenters at I/O (a healthy list of minorities & women), misrepresenting the reality of the situation. Numbers from their own January 2014 report show that 70% of its workers are male, 61% are White, and only 2% are Black. Keep in mind that this is a company that employs over 55,000 people worldwide.
 
Recently, Google has allocated $150 million towards diversity expansion and inserted engineers at select HBCUs to broaden STEM curriculums. Addressing their issues is a step in the right direction, but what ultimately comes of it going forward will say a lot about if systemic employment reconstructions can be implemented successfully by other tech leaders like Apple and Microsoft.
 
Googlefest 2015 will be held at Trident Technological College July 28-29. Since 2012, the company has hosted these summer conferences specialized for educators, small businesses, and non-profits to receive insight on how various applicable Google products can be effective in their fields. The times are 9 am to 4 pm both days.
 
Registration is now underway for this year’s Googlefest. Visit https://sites.google.com/site/googfest2014/ to sign up for the two-day free event. Space is limited, so act fast to cash in your opportunity to experience how Google solidifying its footing in Charleston can benefit you.
 

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