This Wednesday and Thursday, Google is holding its annual developer shindig, I/O. The conference will turn the Shoreline Amphitheater near the company’s headquarters in Mountain View, Calif. into an amusement park for nerds. With any luck, CEO Sundar Pichai won’t lead off on a dark note, as Mark Zuckerberg did by acknowledging a murder shared on Facebook at Facebook F8 and Satya Nadella did by referencing the possibility of technology leading us into an Orwellian future at Microsoft’s Build.Pichai will likely have much sunnier things to say about his company’s work in artificial intelligence and how it’s finding its way into all sorts of products. The company’s main challenge this year is maintaining the excitement it generated–in tech circles, at least–with last year’s I/O announcements. It will be a hard act to follow: At I/O 2016, Google announced the Google Assistant AI service, a new VR platform called Daydream, a smart speaker called Home, and new messaging and video-call apps known as Allo and Duo, respectively.At this year’s I/O, Google could fill its keynote and other sessions only with news about these products and have a worthwhile event. But announcing incremental improvements is never as sexy as announcing wholly new platforms. It’ll be interesting to see how the company divides the keynote time between platform updates and completely new matters. Here’s what to watch for. The company will almost certainly announce some new tricks for its virtual Assistant–Google’s answer to Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri, and Microsoft’s Cortana. These new capabilities will likely relate to expanded subject-area knowledge and greater sensory awareness and communicative.One rumor du jour (from Android Police) says that Google will be announcing a full-on Assistant app for the iPhone. Assistant already lives inside Google’s Allo iOS app, but the scuttlebutt says the new standalone app will both include a chat interface and support voice commands. A session on I/O day 2 with Google’s head of VR, Clay Bavor, will feature Google’s VR initiatives, including its Daydream VR headset and platform and the YouTube VR content channel. Google might even announce new third-party Daydream headsets (or new phones that power them).
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