Google has inked deals with a range of brands including Coca-Cola, McDonald’s and Subway as it makes a renewed push into the mobile payments space.
At the conference yesterday (28 May), Google introduced Android Pay, a mobile payments system that will be built into its Android operating system and use NFC technology.
The move means customers that hold their phones up to an in-store NFC reader will be able to pay for goods with their phones. So far only brands in the US, such as Whole Foods and Macy’s, have signed up.
Google pushes into virtual reality
Google chose I/O to announce its first major move into virtual reality as it looks to bring the technology to the masses. It has signed up with GoPro in an attempt to make it easier to film 360-degree films.
GoPro is developing a ‘rig’ (see above) of 16 cameras arranged in a circle that will film video, while Google is launching software that will stitch the video together once it is uploaded to the cloud to create 3D 360-degree content.
Google also updated its low-cost virtual reality tool Cardboard so that it is compatible with phone screens up to 6 inches and has launched an app for Apple’s iOS. This means almost any size smartphone can be inserted into Cardboard and used as the screen to view the virtual reality content.
Tech firms including Facebook’s Oculus Rift and Sony are working on virtual reality but it remains expensive. Oculus Rift is expected to cost $1,500 when it launches later this year. Cardboard, by comparison, costs $25 although it is also lower quality.
The internet of things
Not content with having Android run on the majority of mobile devices, Google has expanded its horizons to the internet of things – where products such as fridges will be connected to the internet.
It launched Brillo, an operating system for the IoT backed by a new standard, dubbed Weave, that will allow devices to communicate with each other.
Brands will be able to install Weave on any device to ensure interoperability between products no matter what operating system they run on – Google’s Brillo or offerings from Samsung and Apple.
Overhauling Google Wear
Google wants to make its wearable tech more “glanceable, actionable and effortless”. It is introducing updates including wrist-flicking gestures, emoji recognition and an always-on display.
So far more than 4,000 apps have been developed for Google Wear, according to the company, and Google will hope this update encourages more brands to develop for its tech following the launch of Apple Watch.
Adding context to Google Now
Google Now is already a scarily accurate way of Google anticipating what consumers might want to search for next – from showing flight details to marking out the fastest way home. Now Google is adding context.
In Google Maps and looking at a restaurant? Holding down the home button will bring up Now On Tap, which pulls in contextually relevant content such as the restaurant website and reviews.
Listening to Florence and the Machine? Ask Google’s voice search what ‘her’ first album was and it will know that the ‘her’ refers to Florence.
Search has also been updated for apps. Brands can now allow Google to index their content so it comes up in results, allowing users to be directed to an ecommerce site, for example, or call a taxi or listen to a song through Spotify without having to open these apps separately.
There was also a range of other announcements – from a new version of Android dubbed M that focuses on “polish and quality” and includes new app permissions and fingerprint support to improved speech recognition
It has also turned Photos into a standalone app, rather than a service within Google+, offering unlimited photo storage and editing and sharing tools.