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Google I/O 2017 is Underway

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Google’s annual developer conference is underway, and with it we get a look ahead at what the tech giant has in store for us in 2017. From refreshed OS and expanded device capabilities, to the next evolution of virtual and augmented reality, Google previewed what could be one of its most pivotal years in recent memory. Here are some of the headlines that caught our eye.

Right off the bat, Google announced that currently, there are more than 2 billion active Android devices in the world—that includes smartphones, tablets, wearable devices, and TVs. And while that number alone doesn’t specifically predict any new advances in technology, it’s a noteworthy milestone, if for no other reason than it illustrates just how big the global Google community is and the staggeringly deep ranks of Google device users.

Speaking of users, the new Android operating system, Android O, is officially in beta and should be rolled out in full later this year. New features will include improved push notifications, picture-in-picture, and more. It’s still well under wraps, but users with a compatible Nexus or Pixel device can sign up and test it now. We also got a preview of Android Go, Google’s entry-level operating system aimed at reaching users in developing and data-restricted countries. Built on Android O, Android Go is a pared-down operating system meant for budget devices with lesser RAM—a key component in Google’s plan to bring the “next billion” users online and into the Google global community.

An updated OS and a billion new users are great, but what really has stolen the show, thus far, has been has been all the talk about Artificial Intelligence (AI). With huge improvements coming for Google Home and Google Assistant, an AI-layered expansion to all Google devices, and a brand-new artificial intelligence initiative dubbed Google.ai, which aims to bolster the artificial intelligence community through shared research and data, Google seems all in on artificial intelligence.

Along those same lines, Google also revealed plans for new virtual reality equipment, including a stand-alone device that promises VR experiences and gameplay without the need of a smartphone. Even more exciting than that: Google Lens, a brand-new augmented-reality initiative that will allow your smartphone to interact with objects simply by pointing your camera at them. Want an example? With Google Lens, you can hold your camera up to a Wi-Fi router, your phone can the read the device’s Wi-Fi sticker containing its password and connect you automatically. Silly filters and digital crown overlays are all well and good (and OK, fun), but with Lens, Google looks to take AR to an all new level, evolving the tech from amusing to essential.

News is still coming out of I/O 2017, but so far these are the stories that really got us excited. Did we miss anything? Sound off below and let us know what you’re most (or least) excited about.

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