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Missed Google I/O? Here are 5 big things you need to know

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Google I/O has already come and gone. If you missed the three-day showcase of Google’s latest innovations, don’t worry. Here are all the big news items you want to know.

The next version of Android is Called “Android L”

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This year, Google’s latest operating system is departing from the typical, sugar-coated naming tradition. Dubbed as “Android L,” the next edition of Android with a minimalist name has been designed with anything but minimalism in mind. Google is packing a ton of new features in Android L all while making the OS feel faster and run better than ever.

Some highlights from the latest Google update include enhanced notifications, unlocking your device with your Android Wear smartwatch, better search, better graphics processing, better battery life, and more-integrated search. Google is trying to make as much about Android a little better with Android L, and you can read about all the major changes here.

Android Wear isn’t sexy, but it sure is smart

Android Wear hands on
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Google’s new Operating System for wearables, Android Wear, was announced a few months ago in March. Here at I/O we finally got an up close look at the new technology for our wrists. Based on our first impressions, Android Wear has a lot of potential as a useful watch, but it might be a while before we get a truly beautiful device.

At Google I/O we also learned just how users will use Android Wear in their daily life. “Glanceability” still remains Google’s biggest focus, and the company will be using all the data it learns about you to make the Android Wear experience a personalized one that knows when you want certain information. Notifications will come in three main types — stacks, pages, and replies — and will allow you to interact with everything from direction to text messages from your friends and family.

One thing Android Wear is still figuring out is how to look sexy. Wristwatches, as much as they help tell time, are also an important piece of jewelry for many, and the days of ugly smartwatches are still around. However, some of the upcoming Android Wear devices, such as the Moto 360, are finally starting to look rather interesting.

Google is unifying development for all its products

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Since Android’s debut in 2007, Google has taken the experimental OS for cellphones and turned it into the leading standard across consumer electronics of all sorts of shapes and sizes. To help keep things simple for developers and end-users, Google spoke a lot about how it’s unifying the Android experience for these many devices, and making it easy for developers to build applications that interact with all devices at once.

With wearables like Google Glass and Android Wear, Google is making Android Wear a seamless experience between your smartphone and the gadgets you connect to it. Notifications will automatically appear on your peripherals with no additional coding, and with a few lines of code developers can let users interact with their wearables using one of Google’s three notification types: stacks, pages, and replies. This allows developers to easily add support for Google’s new Android Wear technology, and gives users a similar experience no matter what device they use.

The notification standard is extending beyond Google’s mobile products, too. Users of Chromecast and Chrome OS will see similar connectivity and notifications on their devices when they connect and interact with their smartphones. The idea is that notifications across all Chrome and Android devices will be similar in style and easy for users to recognize and interact with. This unity will help Google sell these products as a complete experience for users.

Google’s Cloud is predicting the future (sort of)

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Google is pumping out smartphones and wearables, but the core of the growing digital empire is what started it all: Search. Building off of search, Google is all about using its search and data technology to make everything it does faster and smarter. Whether you like it or not, Google wants to do everything with its cloud technology – even predict the future. Well, sort of.

At a Google I/O presentation, Google went through about how it uses big data to solve big questions – like who will win the World Cup. By using a massive amount of information, Google can calculate statistically the likely chances of, in this example, who is most likely to win the games. So far Google thinks Argentina and Brazil will face off in the final round, but we’ll have to let time tell the true answer. This sort of calculating becomes easier as more data becomes available, but every topic and realm of study has very different circumstances and outcomes to calculate. Google’s big data platform can be used in all sorts of scales to help computers make smarter decisions.

While knowing tomorrow’s lottery numbers is a little far off for Google, even today its search and cloud technology is being used in all of its products. Android Wear is using data about you to help bring contextual information to your wrist; Google Now on Android is all about knowing what you love and giving need-to-know updates. Finding the fastest, most traffic-free route to work is done with tons of Waze data. Like it or not, Google is slowly bringing its many data tools together and pooling its knowledge. Thankfully, for now, Google just wants you to buy its gadgets and for advertisers to buy its advertising tools.

Google is diving into cars and TVs

Android TV hands on
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Another big thing to come out of Google I/O this year was a pair of new platforms for Google: cars and television. Google has toyed around with both before, but this time Google is finally showing off a complete investment in software and hardware for TVs and automobiles.

Google’s automotive experience, Google Auto, is coming to several major automakers this year and looks to unify the Android experience whether you’re on foot or putting the pedal to the metal. As part of the Open Automotive Alliance, Google is partnering with Audi, Hyundai, GM, Honda, and Volvo to bring a Google experience to the dashboard’s of our future cars. The experience is going to be powered by our smartphones and will finally bring together all those car tools to our vehicles. This technology comes just a few months after Apple’s announcement of CarPlay, its own take on the automotive and mobile experiences in unison.

Meanwhile, Google finally went back to the drawing board with Google TV. With the success of Chromecast and a whole new set of ideas, Google has unleashed Android TV. We went hands on with the new big-picture Android experience, and we’re very excited about how it looks and feels. It sure seems a lot like Microsoft’s Windows tile experience, but putting that aside it’s a fast and intuitive way to view content on your TV. All that’s missing now are the apps from developers and TVs/set-top boxes to run it.

These are just a few big things among the many more announced at Google I/O this year. To top it all off, developers received a ton of new APIs and technologies to allow for even more intuitive and unique apps to appear on the Play Store. There was also a working version of Project Ara, and much more. Check out Digital Trend’s full coverage of Google I/O to learn the full scoop. 

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Joshua Sherman
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Joshua Sherman is a contributor for Digital Trends who writes about all things mobile from Apple to Zynga. Josh pulls his…
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