Allo, allo: Google I/O unveils Microsoft-like feature set

Google appears to be following Microsoft with new features to Android, including add-ons that look similar to rivals Skype, OneNote, HoloLens

Google kicked off its annual developer conference Google I/O on 18 May 2016, announcing a natural language query engine called Google assistant, and a speech interface called Home, which seem to work a bit like Microsoft’s Cortana in Windows 10.

There’s also Allo, a Skype-like messenger service along with a companion app Duo, which provides video chat.

Allo has built-in intelligence, similar to the feature in Cortana, which acts like a virtual personal assistant for the user.

Writing on the Google blog, Luke Wroblewski, product director at Google, emphasised that Allo and Duo will work on both Andorid and iOS, just like Skype.

“Best of all, both Allo and Duo are based on your phone number, so you can communicate with anyone regardless of whether they’re on Android or iOS. Both apps will be available this summer,” he wrote.

Beyond copying its rival, Google also unveiled the next version of Android. Codenamed Android N, the mobile operating system (OS) improves performance for graphics and effects, reduces battery consumption and storage, background downloads system updates and streamlines notifications, according to Wroblewski.

He said the latest OS will offer Daydream, a virtual reality (VR) viewer and controller for games and a 3D version of Google’s own apps, such as Street View and YouTube.

Read more about Google tools

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Arguably, Google has taken a somewhat different approach to 3D compared with Microsoft’s HoloLens, which is aimed at high-end gaming and the professional computer-aided design (CAD) market.

Google’s 3D relies on the powerful graphics and CPU processing in smartphones to render 3D graphics apps.

In a blog post commenting on the Google I/O announcement, Forrester vice-president JP Gownder wrote: “Affordable add-on that leverages powerful new smartphones has a great chance of driving market penetration. Recently, Facebook announced that more than 1 million people used the Oculus-affiliated Samsung Gear VR in April, 2016.

“Broader offerings from more handset makers will offer both consumers and enterprises opportunities to leverage VR.”

As an example, he said amusement park company Six Flags has deploying Gear VR devices on its rollercoasters, and real estate agents are experimenting with showing properties on the smartphone-based VR platform.

Read more on Mobile apps and software

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