Skip to main content

The 5 best things from Google I/O 2021

Now that the Google I/O keynote has wrapped up and all of the major announcements have been made, people can take time to process the news — and what news it was. This year has proven to be one of the most packed Google I/O conferences ever, with major updates coming to multiple facets of the Google experience.

Of course, it’s not over yet because the developer’s conference runs until May 20. There’s still the opportunity to check out the many other breakout sessions throughout the event, so make sure you know where and how to watch the live streams. However, if you missed out on day-one festivities, here are the best things announced at Google I/O 2021.

Android 12 is on the way with some huge changes

Image used with permission by copyright holder

Google dropped the public beta for Android 12 and demonstrated some of the major changes coming to the totally redesigned platform. The Material You concept is an evolution of Google’s Material Design approach to aesthetics and apps. It blends multiple color options together to allow users to create a look for their Android device that is unique to them.

This is further expanded on through the Color Extraction technique. Imagine you have several widgets on your home screen, each with a background color and text, but then you set an image as your background.

Color Extraction pulls different colors from that image and uses A.I. to determine what colors look best with it, and then automatically adjusts the background and text color of your widgets and everything else on your home screen to create a one-of-a-kind look.

Google joined forces with Samsung for Wear


Google’s Wear OS platform originally launched to quite a bit of excitement but has grown somewhat stale in the intervening years with so few updates. Google changed all of that at Google I/O 2021 with the announcement that of joining Samsung to create a unified platform that merges the best features of Wear OS and Samsung’s Tizen into a single interface — simply shortened to Wear.

The health and fitness features of Wear OS will also receive an improvement in the coming months thanks to the integration of Fitbit into the platform. With broader developer support, Wear OS looked poised to become a force to be reckoned with.

Project Starline creates immersive video conferencing

Image used with permission by copyright holder

Google’s new Project Starline is a concept that is currently only available in a select few Google offices. It combines a variety of sensors and cameras to create an immersive video conferencing experience that makes it feel like the other person is just an arm’s length away.

During the demonstration video, users reported that it was like they could reach out and touch the other person. Despite all the technology involved, it all seemed to fade into the background and left the focus on the conversation.

After the past year, when video conferencing played such a large role in communication, the ability to have a more intimate, one-on-one experience over distance will help bridge the inherent gap in video communications.

Google Photos updates and Cinematic Moments

Gone are the days when family photos are stored in an album and placed on a shelf. Today, people take thousands of pictures and store them all online in the cloud, or on a separate hard drive.

This results in huge numbers of memories that are all but forgotten, lost in a sea of photos that will rarely, if ever, be examined again. The new Google Photos updates and Cinematic Moments help remedy this by looking for similar shapes, colors, and periods in your photos and grouping them together.

The end result is that this helps users rediscover memories that might otherwise be lost. The update also includes improved search features to help find specific photographs when you have thousands stored.

Google I/O 2021 demonstrated many new features and updates to existing services that will help make Google even more of a powerhouse than it already is. Although some of the things we wanted to see weren’t announced, there’s still time for Google to drop some major announcements throughout the rest of the year.

New language and translation tools

One of the main obstacles facing smart technology is its ability to understand human speech. Computers interpret things in a very literal sense when everyday speech is anything but literal. Hyperbole and exaggeration are common parts of speech. How many times have you said “I’m starving!” when you were just a little bit hungry?

Through upgraded machine learning algorithms, Google’s search tools and Google Assistant can now better understand inputs, even if those inputs are not strictly literal. Users can point Google Lens at a math problem to see the answer, or at signs in foreign languages to receive a proper translation.

Aside from the obvious utility that better language understanding brings to the table, it also provides more accessibility to users with disabilities. One example of this is Android’s ability to live caption any video on their device in real-time. You don’t have to hear to understand what is said in the video.

Editors' Recommendations

Patrick Hearn
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Patrick Hearn writes about smart home technology like Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, smart light bulbs, and more. If it's a…
I’ve finally given up on the Google Pixel Tablet
The Google Pixel Tablet showing a photo as wallpaper.

I’ve given up with the Google Pixel Tablet. Or, to be more precise, I’ve given up trying to make it something it’s not and instead concentrate on its strengths that I enjoy.

I have always thought this confused product should do more or be better than it actually is. But by forgetting all about such things, I’ve found a way to live happily with the Pixel Tablet.
What made me give up?

Read more
Google is going to change Pixel phones forever, and I can’t wait
Google Pixel 8 in white and pink.

Google's Pixel lineup has never been better. Right now, you can find the Google Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro available, as well as its first folding phone, the Google Pixel Fold. And for those who want a budget-friendly option, Google also has the Google Pixel 7a. The phones aren't perfect, but they are among the best Google has ever produced under the Pixel name.

While rumors from last year made us think that the Pixel 7a could be the last of the A-series, that may not actually be the case. We are likely getting a Google Pixel 8a in just a few months, which we expect to be revealed during Google’s I/O conference in May. However, there are whispers that Google may shift away from an annual upgrade cycle for the A-series and instead move to a bi-annual cycle, similar to Apple’s iPhone SE.

Read more
We now know when Apple is adding RCS to the iPhone
The iPhone 14 Plus held in a man's hand.

Last November, Apple made a surprise announcement when it confirmed that RCS was coming to the iPhone in 2024. It's something iPhone and Android phone users alike have been waiting years for, but there was just one small problem: Apple never said when in 2024 RCS was coming. Thanks to Google, of all companies, we now have a better idea of when RCS is heading to the iPhone.

As spotted by 9to5Google, the Android website was recently updated with a new page dedicated to Google Messages. If you click on the "See more features" button for the section talking about RCS, there's a section titled "Better messaging for all" with the following text: "Apple has announced it will be adopting RCS in the fall of 2024. Once that happens, it will mean a better messaging experience for everyone."

Read more