May 11, 2018

Google I/O 2018 Rocketeer Recap  – Day 3

If you’re reading this, Google I/O is now over. Mountain View may be quiet once more, but the excitement from Google I/O is far from over. Sure, the conference is now said and done, but the learnings continue. Google records nearly every single session for developers as it is near impossible to attend every one that may be of interest. So, our developers will continue to search through the depths of Google’s resources to find the latest and greatest to bring to our clients.

For the final day of Google I/O, we wanted to take a moment and share a few favorite updates and pieces of technology that our developers saw during their final day of Google I/O.

Google Maps APIs for Gaming

Pokémon Go was an interesting case in human behavior. It spread like wildfire and quickly resulted in countless news stories of individuals getting hit by cars, falling off motorcycles, climbing into active construction zones and more (example 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6… you get the idea). Now, Google has a solution for that too. Android Engineer, Chris Koeberle, stumbled across this limited-release project Google has been working on. To avoid another craze like Pokemon Go, Google is working to create “safe-zones” where events can occur in GPS-based games, like public parks and malls. They’re also working to cut down development time by making it easier to skin Google Maps using Unity. Again, this is not available to everyone, but we don’t expect it to stay that way forever.

Firebase at Work

With so many platforms, app integrations, and more appearing these days, it’s hard to know which ones are truly reliable. Whether they lose support in months or are rife with bugs, many are extremely skeptical about these services. However, Senior Technical Architect, Jonathan Campos, wanted to be sure this isn’t applied to every service out there. “One of the worst rumors plaguing companies is that Firebase isn’t a ‘real’ platform. Rumblings of scalability and security that ‘true’ developers desire isn’t available with Firebase – but none of this has any credible backing. It may have been true when it released, but it shouldn’t be grouped with these bad actors any longer. Firebase is different. Firebase is secure. Firebase is scalable. It can support projects on a global scale and is up-to-date with the latest security standards. It is really impressive how much you can do if you just make the leap.”

Android Things

Powered by IoT Core, Android Things has more support than ever. To put it simply, Android Things is a suite of components and devices that play nice with the Android ecosystem. Instead of fighting to have your little device communicate with your phone, you can spend the bulk of your time making the magic happen.

tensorflow gimbal demo

Director of Android Engineering, Luke Wallace, snapped this photo for us. As it says on the plaque, “This is a gimbal stabilizer built with a raspberry pi and taught with Google’s TensorFlow Lite Machine Learning technology.” If you’re unfamiliar, gimbal stabilizers rotate and turn cameras to keep it focused on a particular object. In this case, the ML modal learned which direction it would need to twist the camera to keep the subject in view. Another awesome Android Things project on display was a sentinel that can monitor your house while you’re away.

Closing out Google I/O

All good things must come to an end, and so must Google I/O 2018. Before we close out the week, we’d like to take a moment to thank our Rocketeers for keeping us informed on the latest and greatest from Google.

Rocketeers stand in front of Google I/O statue

The Best is Yet to Come

Be sure to revisit over the next few weeks as we take a deep dive into the new technologies offered by Google. We’ll be looking at how Google’s efforts are improving the human experience, changing how users interact with technology, and how businesses can harness these innovations to improve their own projects and offerings.

If you cannot wait until then, contact us today to learn more about the changes coming to the Android ecosystem, Google’s new Machine Learning and Cloud technologies, and how all of these can improve the way businesses serve their customers.

May 10, 2018

Google I/O 2018 Rocketeer Recap – Day 2: A Day for Developers

Google shocked the world with its appointment-booking, conversational AI, Assistant Duplex, when the conference began. They covered new UI elements in Android P, unveiled their new TPU 3.0 servers that power their Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence, and announced Google Assistant will help teach children to say "please" and free up time on your calendar. Believe it or not, all of these announcements were made in the first two hours of the conference. So, what could Google possibly have in store the next two days of I/O 2018? We’re glad you asked.

While a lot of these might not be as flashy as an AI that makes phone calls, there’s no shortage of new and/or updated tools for developers to leverage in the coming year. Here’s what caught the attention of our Rocketeers during the second day of Google’s annual developer conference.

Android Jetpack

Developers can’t just write code and expect it to run perfectly, it needs to be tested – the more often, the better. Back in the day (like last week) developers had to decide whether they wanted to run it on the machine they’re using for development or on a device. Now, they can simply choose which they would like to test, and Jetpack will take care of the rest. The Jetpack Test will even simulate the conditions an Android device “in the wild” would face to make the test more accurate.

Angular

For many companies, Angular is the basis for the majority of their Web Applications. As the reigning king of Web Applications, new features and improvements directly correspond to improvements in applications. Here are a few features that Senior Technical Architect, Jonathan Campos, found to be the most exciting:

Schematics – Customize the generated code for an application; improves development speed.

Angular Universal – A way to render out Angular applications at first request by a user; improves first draw speed and user experience.

Angular Elements – Allows rendering of Angular components without needing to include the entire Angular framework on a webpage.

Ivy Renderer – This remarkable change in rendering can both reduce bundle sizes and improve the initial load time of an application by removing unused code and only compiling the necessary code that changed between releases.

Core IoT

The Internet of Things (IoT) continues to grow, but it’s not getting any easier to manage – until now. Google’s new IoT management tool, Cloud IoT Core, will make it much easier to manage, connect, and grow IoT ecosystems that seamlessly connect to Google’s Cloud Platform (GCP). It’s not just the development that’s streamlined; analytics are also more manageable than ever.

Lighthouse

An underrated feature hidden in Chrome, Lighthouse helps web developers pinpoint areas for optimization to increase the performance of websites. As of I/O 2018, Google is expanding on its feature set. One feature that will help companies the most in monitoring their sites is the added Lighthouse API. This way, businesses can integrate diagnostics right into their Continuous Integration and Continuous Delivery pipelines.

Photos

Google Photos is great on its own, but it doesn’t play well with others. As users take photos, Google Photos is great for backing up and indexing those images. However, finding an image in another app, like a photo editor, can result in minutes of searching through device folders. Yesterday, Google introduced a developer API for Google Photos. This will allow user-permitted apps to search through images directly or by using categories like “documents” or “selfies” as a filter. Director of Android Engineering, Luke Wallace, had this to say about the new API: “Imagine picking a profile photo by just seeing your last 10 selfies in Google Photos, it would be so much quicker than it is today! The API allows for basic filtering of photos, adding photos to Google Photos, creating albums, and even enhancing the albums with more information around the photos like descriptions and map views.”

Support Library

Unless an app has a singular purpose, it’s going to need a menu – among other things. Instead of starting from scratch each time, Google has made it easier than ever to edit UI components for Material Design in the support library. Now, instead of having to reinvent the wheel every time you want a custom interface, you can start with something that resembles a wheel and modify where you see fit. The best part? It’s not just for apps! The support library provides UI components that can be used for Android, iOS, web, Flutter and React.

WorkManager

A lot happens behind-the-scenes when actively using an app and when it’s running in the background. Ever put your phone in your pocket and it seemed unusually warm? It’s probably due to an unoptimized app ravaging your CPU. That’s why Google made WorkManager. With this nifty tool, developers have more visibility into solutions for background work – which will ultimately help developers make more battery-friendly apps.

Closing out Day 2

While this may seem like a lot, this is just the tip of the iceberg. It seems no service, tool, or platform was left untouched this year. What’s even more astonishing is that Google has more releases on the way. Some of the updates we’re learning about are just now being released to the public and some aren’t even out yet. So, be sure to check in every now and then as we explore even more of these new features and services from Google.

Until then, if you’d like to hear more about the updates coming to Android and how Google’s services can improve both your iOS and Android applications, contact us today.

May 9, 2018

Google I/O 2018 Rocketeer Recap – Day 1

During the annual Google I/O event, so much more is released than just what the keynote includes. Sure, most of the big news comes out in the first two hours, but more and more details and announcements come out as Google holds session after session over the course of the three-day event.

Google’s goal this year seems to be quality-of-life updates – both for developers and for the people who will ultimately use the products and services created by developers. Since Google is leaning heavily on Machine Learning (ML) to accomplish this goal, talk of ML and AI permeated the entire conference. The second most important theme of the day was simplification (and ML is helping with that too).

Improvements for Developers

Once developers had a chance to learn more about the technologies originally discussed during the keynote, a trend emerged – Firebase was everywhere. Firebase had previously been used for a few things in app development, like crash reporting and user authentication through other web services such as Facebook and Twitter, but this year Google has made it a tool that every developer should be using. As we mentioned in our Google I/O 2018 keynote recap, Google added several new ML models within Firebase to make applications not only functional, but smart. This isn’t where the Machine Learning stops though. Google also added several new features to help with communication, overall application health, and data management. Senior Technical Architect, Jonathan Campos, believes the services in Firebase are so powerful that this could likely be the way most companies will implement Machine Learning in their applications for the foreseeable future.

Another Google-backed technology facing a revival is the Progressive Web App or PWA. Introduced a few years ago, PWAs are basically light-weight versions of apps that live on the web. This year PWAs were front and center, featuring native integration with Chrome OS along with a host of new Lighthouse tools to create more actionable guidance developers.

Google also stepped up and added a host of new features and development best practices for Android. A key resource to aid in this is Android Jetpack – a set of libraries, tools, and architectural guidance to make it easier to build great Android applications.

Improvements for Users

Digital well-being is not a new idea, but Google is using it to help drive some of their initiatives. The Dashboard in Android P will help users understand where their time is going, and even encourage them to stop using apps that eat up too much time. For those that want to disconnect more, it could make things a lot easier by providing a little external force that can drive behavior change. But it’s not just a person’s time and energy that Android P is going to help with – it’s also going to help extend the time their phone has energy. When monitoring what and when apps are used to help users disconnect, Google will also be using ML to know when to close or block apps from operating in the background, ultimately extending the battery life of Android devices.

Carrying along with the theme of simplicity, Android P features a few new UI adjustments as well. For instance, many interactions will now occur at the bottom of the phone – where it is easiest to access them with one hand. Other UI adjustments include gestures in place of button presses, icons such as the "back" button only appearing when they can be used, or the rotation icon when the phone is turned 90 degrees.

There are other products aside from Android P that received updates users will enjoy as well. For instance, Android TV got an overhauled setup process that reduced setup time by about a third. Thanks to ML, Android TV will also predict what settings users are looking for as well. Google also updated ARCore to version 1.2 and announced Cloud Anchors. As one of our Android Engineers, Chris Koeberle, put it, “Cloud Anchors were the missing element to make it easy to create immersive multiperson augmented reality experiences. Being able to create an AR app that allows people to not just experience but collectively modify a virtual world - on Android and iOS - is going to open up possibilities we can't even imagine yet.”

Closing out Day 1

“As a developer, I don’t focus on what something does, but what it enables me to do. Today Google enabled me to do a lot – specifically around Google Assistant, application development with Firebase and Machine Learning, web application quality with PWAs, and improvements to the Android ecosystem."

Jonathan Campos, Senior Technical Architect

With this many announcements made on day one, it’s hard to imagine what Google has in store for the rest of the week. But, that’s why we have developers on the scene to tell us what they discover, as they discover it. Be sure to check in tomorrow to hear what they stumble upon next.

In the meantime, contact us for more information about the changes coming in Android P. As one of the select Google Certified Agencies, are privy to detailed information, beta releases, and direct access to in-house Google developers, unlike others without this elite certification. With so many changes on their way, it’s more important than ever to build out your digital roadmap, and we can help.

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