Every Announcement From Google I/O’s Opening Keynote

It's time to Google

Google I/O kicked off on May 18, giving viewers an insight into the new features and updates that Google has planned for a number of its platforms. 

Google’s annual conference often brings news of updates and big feature changes for some of Google’s biggest platforms, and this year is no different. From advances made in AI and quantum computing, to changes to how you interact with search and your online passwords, Google had a lot to talk about during the opening keynote for Google I/O 2021.

Google I/O opening intro logo on projector screen


Google Maps Updates

Eco-Friendly Routes and Safer Routing are two new features arriving in Google Maps later this year. Google CEO Sundar Pichai says the new options will allow for less fuel consumption when selecting eco-friendly routes. Safer Routing, on the other hand, will allow drivers to avoid sudden stops, rough roadways, and more.

Liz Reid, VP of Search at Google, detailed how Google is using AR to improve the use of Google Maps, like virtual street signs, key landmarks, and other important directions. Google Maps will also get Indoor Live View, allowing you to navigate large buildings—like airports—more easily.

Detailed Street Maps will bring info on crosswalks and other granular details that Maps users might need. And Time-based adjustments will start to appear on the map, allowing you to discern which restaurants and businesses are more tailored for that time of the day.

Smart Canvas

Google is also bringing some updates to Workspace in the form of Smart Canvas. The company says the new tools will allow for greater collaboration and easier access to features like Google Meet.

Other new features in Smart Canvas include live captions and translations in Google Meet, a timeline view in Sheets, as well as several new templates for Docs like tables and meeting notes.

Advanced AI

Language has been a key focus for Google over the past few decades, and now the company is looking to create new machine learning techniques to help make conversation between humans and AI more seamless. To make that happen, Google introduced LaMDA, a new AI built to help push the conversational skills of AI forward. It is still in early research, but Google appears to have big plans for it. 

The company announced it is working to make it easier for users to interact with search queries by using AI to make it possible for you to search for certain parts of videos using your voice alone. There was also a short sketch with actor Michael Peña about how Google is pushing the future of quantum computing forward and some of the goals that Google hopes to meet along the way.

Security and Passwords

Online security is an ongoing topic of concern and Google announced some new additions coming to its password manager. You’ll soon be able to receive password alerts for compromised passwords, as well as the ability to import your passwords from other password managers—making it easier to switch over. Google Password Manager will also include a quick fix feature that allows you to quickly find compromised passwords and reset them.

Illustration showing Google Password Manager checking passwords


Additional security features coming to Google platforms include a new Locked Folder option on Android phones. It will launch first on Pixel phones but will eventually release to other Android phones in the future.

Search AI Improvements

Search has evolved since Google first debuted, but that does not mean the work is done. During Google I/O, the company announced its new Multitask Unified Model (or MUM), a replacement for its previous search engine system which was known as Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers (or BERT). MUM will allow for more nuanced searches to provide useful results. The entire goal with MUM is to take the guesswork out of searching without forcing users to change how they search. 

Google is also using AR as part of its push to make searching easier through systems like Google Lens, and the company will roll out a new "About this Result" option, which allows you to check the validity of a search result before clicking on it.

Online Shopping

Google introduced a new Shopping Graph, which includes info from websites, prices, reviews, videos, and data received directly from retailers. Google says it will allow the company to connect users with billions of devices from various retailers. The new graph will work across several Google systems, like Chrome, Google Lens, YouTube, and more. 

A new feature will allow you to see items you have in carts whenever you open new tabs in Chrome, as well as to track prices and get access to coupons and other discounts. 

Google Photos

AI will also make a bigger impact on Google Photos, including Little Patterns, a new system that Google says will identify the smaller moments from your photos and videos to remind you of them. Little Patterns will use information like shapes and colors to congregate photos together in an attempt to "tell a story."

Photos will also use Cinematic photos, a machine learning feature that can add effects to images to make them feel like more than just a flat photo. Google is also putting a big emphasis on making photo browsing more inclusive, allowing you to easily delete photos, rename them, or more. These features are expected to release this summer.

Wear OS and Tizen Partner Up

During the opening keynote, Google revealed that the future of Wear OS is rooted in unification. To make that happen, Samsung and Google are partnering up to bring the best features of Wear OS and Tizen—the OS that Samsung has been using on its smartwatches.

Google says the unified approach will allow for faster switching between apps, better battery life, and overall support for more Android-based smartwatches. More customization options will also play a key part in how you use your Wear OS-powered smartwatch, and the release of new tiles and personalization features will help bring that to life.

Application access has always been a problem for Wear OS, but Google says new apps are coming to Wear OS. Furthermore, Samsung and Google are working to make it easier for developers to create apps for Wear OS, which could help increase the availability of apps on Android smartwatches in the future.

Android 12 Beta

The latest version of Google’s Android operating system has been available to developers for a few months now, but the public beta will be available starting on May 18 for Pixel phones, as well as some phones and other devices from ASUS, OnePlus, OPPO, realme, Sharp, TECHNO, TCL, Vivo, Xiaomi, and ZTE.

Android 12 includes an overhaul to the main design for the OS, including more personalization options. The company also says that it wants to make the phone more adaptable to the user, instead of the user having to adapt to the phone. Personalized color palettes, redesigned widgets, and more fluid animations and motion are key parts of the experience.

Privacy is also an important focus in Android 12, and Google says that the OS will include more features to offer transparency on what applications are accessing. This should allow users to make more informed choices about how they share information with those companies. The beta will receive new updates throughout the coming months, but users interested in seeing Android 12 in action can do so right now.

See all our coverage of Google I/O 2021 here.

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