Android M, wearables and robots expected at Google I/O this week

With Google I/O coming up this week, developers, as well as people in the industry at large, are waiting to see what the company will trot out on stage.

And while everyone is confident they'll see Android M, a new version of the operating system, they're also wondering if Google executives will finally show off some robots and autonomous cars , as well as wearables.

"Google never disappoints at Google I/O. I think we can expect the same this year," said Jeff Kagan, an independent industry analyst. "Google is like an octopus with lots of arms reaching out in many different directions. The big question is will Google introduce any brand-new ideas or will this year's Google I/O just be updates To tell you the truth, no one outside of Google really knows yet."

Google I/O is the company's major developer's conference. Held in San Francisco, the conference will take place on Thursday and Friday.

The company is notoriously tight-lipped about what it'll roll out during the conference keynote but, thanks to a leaked session description, most people are expecting to hear about the new features that will come with a new version of Android.

"Google always talks about Android at I/O, so I would expect to hear about Android M, or whatever the next version will be called," said Brian Blau, an analyst with Gartner. "There are always issues with Android in secure work environments, and that Android is not really made for desktop computers. I would think we'll hear about using Android in more situations than just on mobile. Google may have a way to make Android apps work better with ChromeOS."

In terms of other products and services Google is working on, it's not a sure bet exactly what will be shown off at this year's conference.

One of the things people are speculating on is whether the company will come out with an updated version of the much-hyped and much-maligned Google Glass .

This past January, Google stopped selling prototypes of the computerized eyeglasses after excitement around the product had dimmed and online jokes about Glass had steadily increased.

Users were becoming more aware of how dorky they looked wearing them, and about potential privacy concerns that go along with a wearable that could surreptitiously take photos and videos of people.

Because Google first showed off Glass to developers at its 2013 Google I/O conference, some are hopeful that they'll see a new version of the device this week.

Blau is optimistic that developers and analysts will at least hear about what's in store for the next version of Glass. "Maybe they will reveal a Glass 2.0 And to go along with that, they will need to demonstrate to developers an updated OS."

But Dan Olds, an analyst with The Gabriel Consulting Group, said he's doubtful that Glass will be ready this soon for a primetime showing.

When it comes to wearables, some analysts expect Google to talk about anything from more Android-based watches to smart socks this week. (Hint: There is a wearables session that's promised to ""blow your socks off.")

"Given all of the hype around wearables, such as watches or other types of electronic clothes, I'm sure Google will show off new devices and new OSes so developers can compete with the likes of Apple Watch," Blau said. He expects Google's devices "to take advantage of the ever-shrinking technology that can now be embedded in just about anything we wear."

He also noted that Google is likely to talk about virtual reality.

"I think Google just can't let companies like Microsoft or Facebook with Oculus go on too long without having a virtual reality solution of their own," Blau said. "There are plenty of augmented reality devices that already use Android so it would be great to see them get more support with a specialized OS that specifically addresses their needs."

Google does have a virtual reality session scheduled for the conference.

Analysts also are hopeful they'll see Google talk about its work with autonomous cars and robotics.

"We might also see other applications of this technology, like self-navigating service robots, for example," Olds said.

Over the last several years, Google has acquired at least eight robotics companies, including Boston Dynamics, which made the humanoid Atlas robot , which is being used in the DARPA Robotics Challenge finals next week.


Sharon Gaudin

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