Google I/O: Jelly Bean, Nexus 7, Nexus Q & Skydiving With Project Glass

Lots of news coming out of Google I/O, the company’s annual developer conference. Android Jelly Bean will feature Google Now, a revamped mobile search experience with improved voice search and increased integration of Google’s Knowledge Graph.

Here’s a recap of the biggest stories today from Google I/O 2012 in San Francisco.

Google Android 4.1 Jelly Bean Details

Google unveiled the latest version of its Android operating system (OS), known as Android 4.1 Jelly Bean.

While its name suggests it is little more than an incremental update, Jelly Bean brings a few new features to Android. Among these is smarter resizing of on-screen icons with automatic repositioning, along with a new virtual keypad that predicts what you’re typing before you spell it out.

Jelly Bean also includes what Google has named “Project Butter”, a new buffering system that boosts performance to offer “buttery smooth” video rendering.

Google also introduced another new feature called Google Now. Accessible by swiping up from the bottom of the screen, this gives users information without having to ask for it. For example, if you have an appointment logged in your calendar, Google Now will tell you the easiest route and when the next bus will be arriving.

Android 4.1 also focuses on voice. As well as the news that its voice dictation now works offline, Google has enhanced Android’s onboard voice search controls, enabling users to click on the microphone to ask a question before being told the response by a Siri-like voice.

Other new tweaks include an updated camera app with a new gallery view, improved animations and the ability to make a phone call from the notifications menu.

Google said Android 4.1 will be made available to the Samsung Galaxy Nexus, Motorola Xoom and Nexus S over-the-air (OTA) from mid-July, while the SDK for developers is available from today.

What’s more, Google announced that OEMs will get a hardware development kit months before a new operating system version is released, which means users can start to expect faster Android updates.

Google Shows Off Nexus 7 Tablet

ASUS Google Nexus 7

Google’s long-rumored Nexus 7 tablet was also unveiled and become available in mid-July. The Asus-built tablet, which aims to compete head on with the iPad, features a 7in HD 1280×800 touchscreen, a Nvidia Tegra 3 quad-core processor and a 12-core GPU, and will be available in 8GB and 16GB models.

Google’s improved Google Play store also brings magazines and HD videos straight to its own-branded tablet, and there’s also an new YouTube app optimized for tablets.

In terms of specifications, buyers will also find integrated NFC, WiFi, Bluetooth, battery life promising 9 hours of video playback, Google’s Chrome web browser, and a 1.2 megapixel front-facing camera. However, Google has decided not to put a rear-facing camera in the Nexus 7, likely to keep the price of the device low.

The Google Nexus 7 will be available in the UK from mid-July, although UK pricing is still to be revealed. In the US, the 8GB and 16GB models will be priced at $199 and $249, respectively. Customers in the US will also get a $20 credit to spend in Google Play, and free content including the “Transformers Dark of the Moon” movie.

Google Nexus Q Arrives to Take on Apple TV

Google Nexus Q

Google surprised everyone with the launch of the Nexus Q, a media streamer that aims to take on the Apple TV.

The first Google built device is what the company has named the first “social media streamer”, enabling users to stream music, videos and YouTube clips straight from the cloud to their HDTV, sound system or speakers. Users can collaborate with friends to create playlists too, which can be edited using a Google Play app on Android smartphones and tablets.

“Why shouldn’t everyone at the party be able to add their own music, movies and videos to the mix and choose what’s playing?” Google asked. “All your guests need is an Android phone or tablet and a connection to your Wi-Fi network. Prefer your own taste in music? Just turn off guest mode in your Nexus Q settings and it’s all you.”

The orb-shaped Nexus Q weighs 923g and features 1GB of RAM, 16GB of internal storage, Bluetooth, WiFi, NFC and a dual-core ARM Cortex A9 CPU.

Although Google has been talking up its new mobile operating system, Android Jelly Bean, the Nexus Q will come out running Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS).

The Google Nexus Q will launch in the US for $299, and can be ordered from Google Play now.

Project Glass Goes Skydiving

Also of note was the Skydiving & Stunt Fun Time Show, starring Google co-founder Sergey Brin. Wearing the Project Glass goggles, Brin showed off the potential of the new device in a live demo.

After communicating with a team of skydivers via a Google+ Hangout, we were treated to first-person views from over San Francisco, as aimed toward a landing atop the Moscone Center. What followed was a series of bicycle stunts and jumps that eventually led the entire team on-stage before a very appreciative crowd.

Despite the amazing spectacle, the glasses are nowhere near a public release. Only U.S. developers attending I/O will be able to pre-order the devices for $1,500.

Here’s a video of how Google put the show together:

Material from the Inquirer was used in this report.

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