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Where are they now? Google's big I/O announcements, one year later

Following up on the winners and losers.

Google Hosts Its I/O Developers Conference
Anil Sabharwal, VP of Photos, at Google's 2015 I/O Conference
Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Every year, big tech companies use their developer conferences to launch splashy stuff. Some of these products go on to reach millions, maybe billions. Some die on the vine.

Google kicks off its annual I/O developer conference on Wednesday, where it will unfurl new products around Android, virtual reality and artificial intelligence.

But what about the ones from last year?

We chased them down for you:

The immediate winners

Google Photos: This was the star of last year's show — for obvious reasons. The photo storage and organization app, finally untangled from the residue of Google Plus, showcased Google's machine learning capabilities and fit a consumer need. It felt Google-y. Photos had some embarrassing hiccups on the automated tagging feature, but saw solid uptake. In October, Google said Photos reached 100 million users, and it continues to add features. We might hear new updates this week.

Expeditions: Google's aim to distribute virtual reality far and wide found a natural ally: Schools. In January, the company claimed that some half a million school kids have tried out the program, which delivers Google's cheap Cardboard headset with guided VR tours. We don't have any other numbers, but people familiar with Google's VR team say the program is going very well. And it gives Google a foot in two desirable doors — VR content and education services — at the same time.

Jump: This was the other big VR unveiling from last year — a new platform that could easily stitch together 360 footage for VR videos. It hit a hurdle when its inaugural partner, GoPro, delayed its "Jump-ready" camera. (It came out earlier this month.) Yet that might not have deterred Google's push for VR-ready YouTube videos. In January, Google said more than 350,000 hours of such footage has been viewed, and will likely share new numbers this week at its keynote, which will be streamed in VR.

Still cooking

Now on Tap: After Photos, this was the biggest product release. The feature summoned Google's personal assistant and search tech with one button inside any app, a seeming fix to Google's looming threat of being cut from apps. Bloomberg called it a "bombshell"; I called it a "Trojan horse." Neither the bomb nor the horse has come. The product has struggled to get traction with users and partners, according to sources. That's largely because it's relegated to the latest Android software, which only a small fraction of phones use.

Deep linking: These products — developer features that links apps to one another — are critical to Google. At the Code/Mobile conference in October, the company said it has indexed more than 100 billion apps for potential deep links. But it didn't specify how many are on iOS devices, a functionality Google introduced at last I/O. Nor has it given any updates on App Invites, a product rolled out last year that lets people share apps with those on their contact list.

Nothing to see here

Android Pay: Last year, Google rolled out two payments products: Pay, a retail and in-app purchase service; and a revamped peer-to-peer service. It's been slow going, a pace that has characterized all Google commerce efforts. In October, Google said that 60 percent of Pay's "millions of users" were new to Google payments. Some updates may come this week, but don't expect something huge.

Brillo: This operating system for connected devices was Google's formidable entrance into the market. It has been pretty quiet since, however. Google announced a few partner devices earlier in the year, but that's about it. That could be, in part, because the whole industry is crawling along.

Android Wear: Smartwatches have had a rough year. A former Googler recently told me that the Android team is thankful that most people associate the devices with Apple, sometimes forgetting that Google supports them. Last year, Google released a slew of features for Android Wear, and said that there were more than 4,000 apps on the platform.

Wearable pants: The splashiest of the splashy launches from last year were around two far-out developments around internet-connected tech, called Project Soli and Project Jacquard, under Google's ATAP research unit. Little has come out since (although the ATAP head departed for Facebook). Jacquard is a specialized sensor tech that renders literally anything as connected or "wearable" tech. Google unveiled it as a partnership with Levi's. A spokesperson for the jeans company said an update is coming this week.

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