5 of the biggest reveals from day 2 of Google I/O 2016

20 May 2016

The second day of Google's I/O developer shindig was insightful and revealing, including a new VR headset and Android apps coming to Chromebook devices

Day 2 might have had fewer reveals than day 1 of Google I/O, but the insights and reveals, from a new Daydream headset to Android apps coming to Chrome OS, were seriously impressive.

So, after all the high-octane action of day 1 of Google I/O in San Francisco, the internet giant continued to wow and amaze on day 2, with some pretty exciting reveals and insights.

Here are 5 of the best:

1. Daydream and believe: the next version of Cardboard


Google will compete with partners to sell its own Daydream VR headset, it emerged last night. Daydream is the next evolutionary step of Cardboard and brings Google closer to competing with the Oculus Rift, at least in terms of comfort.

This is likely to be the VR headset that will be powered by chips from Irish start-up Movidius, which earlier this year inked a multi-million dollar deal with Google.

Like the low-end Carboard, Daydream will still rely on your phone to provide the display and head-tracking capabilities. Google and its partners, including Epic Games and Unity, have focused their attentions on creating a controller with sensors, buttons and a clickable trackpad.

To ensure a high-end experience, Google is certifying a range of phones that will be Daydream-ready, including devices from LG, Samsung, HTC, Xiaomi and more.

Google will also build software support for VR mode into its next Android OS, Android N.

2. Android apps coming to select Chrome OS devices


As expected, Google revealed that it is finally bringing the Google Play Store with its 1.5m Android apps to Chrome OS. It is expected that Google Play will arrive on the dev channel with Chrome OS version 53 in early June. It will be compatible with three Chromebooks: the Asus Chromebook Flip, the Acer Chromebook R11 and Google’s own Pixel 2.

“This means you’ll be able to download and use Android apps, so you can make a Skype call, work with Office files and be productive offline – or take a break with games like Minecraft, Hearthstone or Clash of Clans,” said Dylan Reid, Chrome OS software engineer.

“The same apps that run on phones and tablets can now run on Chromebooks without compromising their speed, simplicity or security. This is good for users and great for developers – in addition to phones and tablets, they will be able to easily bring their apps to laptops. And all this is built on top of Chrome OS, so users will continue to have everything they love in their Chromebooks.”

3. Area 120 corporate incubator plans

Sundar Pichai

Google CEO Sundar Pichai

Google is planning to set up a new corporate incubator dubbed “Area 120” where Googlers can go and create and scale up their own projects and ideas.

Google traditionally has allowed its engineers and employees to spend one day a week, or 20pc of their time, on side projects. However, the project has been pared back in recent years, with Google Ventures stepping up to the plate to help employees struggling with an entrepreneurial itch.

But, according to ForbesGoogle CEO Sundar Pichai said in an interview that Area 120 will be different. It will be part-incubator and partly a take on the old 20pc time tradition.

“It is giving people a chance at 20pc time more formally,” Pichai said. He said that, instead of spending a day a week on a side project, those accepted into the programme may be able to spend six months on it.

4. Inaugural Google Play Awards


Interior design and decorating resource Houzz was named the best overall Android app of the year at the first-ever Google Play Awards. The best game crown went to Clash Royale. Smart airfare prediction engine Hopper won the best start-up award, while millennial-focused investing app Robinhood was named winner for the best use of material design. The award for best indie developer went to Alphabear.

5. Chromebooks outsell Macs


One of the big insights to emerge from Google I/O was the claim by IDC that more Google Chromebooks were sold in the first quarter of 2016 than all of Apple’s Mac line. While overall PCs are on the decline, The Verge reported that an estimated 2m Chromebooks were sold compared with around 1.76m Macs. One of the reasons for this is the low-cost Chromebooks have been a hit with K-12 schools across the US. This chimes in nicely with Google’s plans to make Chrome OS compatible with the 1.5m Android apps in the Google Play Store.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years