Google I/O 2015: From Projects Vault and Brillo to smart jeans and cardboard virtual reality, the impossibly advanced technologies unveiled in San Francisco


Essentially an operating system for the Internet of Things (IoT), Google’s Project Brillo is an adapted version of Android designed to manage a number of connected devices from a central management console. It’s Google’s attempt at standardising the way we control devices, from household appliances like Nest (which, incidentally, Google owns) to wearables like fitness trackers. IoT has been the next big thing for a while. With developments like Project Brillo, it looks like it’s finally becoming a reality.


For the last five years, tech brands have been perfecting the accuracy of touchscreen technology, but all this may be rendered irrelevant by Soli. It uses radar to “capture the possibilities of the human hand” by making products capable of recognising small hand gestures like flicks and pinches. Before you know it, we’ll be able to answer a call without even touching our phones and we’ll be casually swiping airborne interfaces like Tom Cruise in Minority Report.


Mobile security is big business and the innovator who can safeguard companies against hackers is set to make big money. Enter Project Vault, a sophisticated microchip that acts as a digital safe that can be inserted into a smartphone. It protects the personal information on the phone’s owner, scrambling messages and encrypting data to third parties. Google says it’s aiming the technology at companies before consumers to make sure it meets their exacting standards before it enters the open market.


Google’s low-cost, low-tech approach to virtual reality – a cardboard headset with two lenses and a display slot for a smartphone – originated as a “20 per cent project” by an employee in the firm’s Paris office (Google workers are encouraged to dedicate 20 per cent of their time to an original project). On Thursday, vice-president Clay Bavor unveiled a 16 lens camera for recording 360 degrees video to play on the headset. The company is also working on software to turn the videos into credible virtual reality experiences. With Google Cardboard the tech giant aims to show that VR doesn’t have to be super-complicated or super expensive.


After Lollipop comes Android M (the precise piece of confectionary remains a mystery – marshmallow? Mars Bar?), and it looks exciting: fingerprint scanning technology will be incorporated as standard across all devices, as will Android Pay (to use the latter, all you need to do is unlock your device and hold it up to a contactless payment terminal). M also marks the arrival of Now on Tap, a digital assistant that responds to voice commands and foregrounds relevant information relating to text exchanges; if a friend suggests going to see a particular movie, Now on Tap will provide links to reviews and reservation numbers – like Siri but better.


So far, the worlds of fashion and tech have united to produce only novelty abominations like the flashing Christmas jumper, but Google has higher ambitions for the medium. It used the I/O conference to announce a partnership with Levi’s jeans that will unleash a line of digital denim in 2016. Project Jacquard has seen the creation of a conductible yarn so thin that it can be woven seamlessly into a fabric on any industrial loom. This means that garments can be made into interactive surfaces so developers can connect apps to clothes, creating a whole new industry in fashion tech.


There’s been so much hype about the Apple Watch that you could be forgiven for forgetting Google released its wrist-based operating system, Android Wear, over 18 months ago. All of the fancy bells and whistles being added to the new Android “M” update will be whisking their way to Android Wear, including Android Pay and Now on Tap (see far left). Google promised that there will be more ways to receive information straight to your wrist than ever before. The watch war just got even hotter.

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