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Google I/O 2017: Expect a clearer understanding of Google’s ‘AI first’ future

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Google Hosts Its Annual I/O Developers Conference
Google CEO Sundar Pichai speaks at Google I/O 2016
Justin Sullivan / Getty

A year ago, Google CEO Sundar Pichai laid out a vision for an “AI first” future at Google, where the concept of computing is focused less on devices, with the computer taking the form of an omnipresent intelligent assistant.

At this year’s annual Google I/O developers conference, which kicks off tomorrow in Mountain View, Calif., we’re hoping to get a clearer understanding of what Pichai meant. (The keynote starts Wednesday, May 17 at 10 am PT, 1 pm ET.)

We’ve seen the concept of AI-first computing fleshed out a bit with Google’s Assistant software that runs on the Google Home device and later versions of Android. But for the most part, the idea of “AI first” remains abstract.

Ideally, we’ll come out of I/O with a better big-picture understanding of what this new direction for Google means. At the very least, we’ll come back with a smattering of new details that point in the direction of where Google is headed.

Don’t expect new hardware devices, as Google tends to save those announcements for its fall hardware event. (There are exceptions: Google did announce the Home device at last year’s I/O.) But we don’t think there will be a Home with a screen popping up, for example, to compete with Amazon’s new Echo Show.

Here’s what we’re expecting:

Google, Google, everywhere. Expect Google to announce that it’s pushing Assistant to more hardware. Bloomberg reported that Google will unveil integrations with the iPhone and GE home devices including dishwashers, ovens, washers and dryers. That means users will be able to talk to their appliances, telling the oven to preheat or asking if the laundry is done, for example.

More Home features. The Information reported last month that Google planned to add Wi-Fi capabilities to Home so that the device can be used to extend a household’s Wi-Fi network. This may be an announcement at I/O.

Tensorflow. For software developers, Google may have news pertaining to its open-source machine learning framework Tensorflow, which Google uses for AI capabilities like recognizing objects and people in photos and understanding language. This could include announcing that Tensorflow will be supported by more platforms, which would mean developers could have more flexibility in the devices on which they run programs they build with Tensorflow.

More AI smarts in more places. In general, expect Google to announce that it is expanding its application of AI technology in more places, and that Google products are getting more automated. The whole point of AI is that it’s supposed to do most of the work.

VR and AR. We may learn that more phone manufacturers are releasing or updating phones with features compatible with Google’s Daydream virtual reality platform. What would also be interesting is to find out whether Google plans to release more open-source VR or AR software. Google has already made its VR art software Tilt Brush open-source.

Android O. Earlier this year, Google released a developer preview of Android O, the latest version of the Android operating system under development. We already know a little bit about O, which doesn’t yet have a full name: It’s being designed for improved battery life and is expected to have simplified app-notification settings, for example. We may learn more about it at I/O.

Enterprise. Pichai wrote in his founders’ letter last year that enterprise — cloud computing and workplace software and tools — is a prime place to see AI advances take hold. Automated features figured prominently in announcements earlier this year at Google’s cloud conference, Next. Some announcements could be focused on workplace productivity or cloud computing.

Wild card. All of these predictions and hunches are pretty straightforward. But Google tends to have something more exciting at I/O than mere iteration of what we already know the company is doing. So, what’s the wild card here? One guess is that Google could announce a new operating system. Ars Technica published photos of a reported open-source smartphone OS from Google, supposedly called “Fuchsia.”

Join Recode for live coverage of I/O beginning Wednesday, May 17 at 10 am PT, 1 pm ET.

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