Google I/O 2016

Me in front of the giant I/O sign

I just got back from a FANTASTIC week in Mountain View for Google I/O 2016! It was my 3rd I/O (I went in 2015 and 2014), and I think it was my favorite. I was skeptical about getting sunburned in the outdoor venue, but my long sleeves did the trick and overall the content was amazing this year and the PEOPLE were fantastic. It was so amazing to meet so many people in real life that I’ve known online only, and to reunite with so many friends from around the world.

I literally kicked off the conference by scootering about 2 miles from my AirBnB to the venue to pick up my badge on Tuesday afternoon.  I brought the scooter because I thought traffic would be unimaginable during the conference.  It turned out there was hardly any traffic at all, so I ended up ditching my scooter after Day 1. Oh well!

After badge pickup was the Women Techmakers dinner, one of my favorite parts of the conference. In years past we have been divided up among several restaurants, but this year we were all at a single location.  The food & company were spectacular, and I even got to sit next to the famous Virginia Poltrack, who designed all the WTM swag!  She is one of the most talented and awesome people I’ve ever met.

I was up super early the next morning for the keynote, and was SO FREAKIN EXCITED to land in the 6th row!

As we waited for the keynote to begin, we all played this amazing interactive game where you could fold up and send little virtual paper airplanes around the world! You could also catch other people’s planes, stamp it, and send it on its way. It was adorable and exciting and I could have played it all day. I was so excited to capture a well-travelled plane that had also spent time in Boulder, CO!

The keynote began and I was excited to hear from friends watching in Denver that I was in the livestream!

I went into this I/O not really knowing what to expect.  Between the recent massive updates to Android Studio and the preview release of N, I didn’t quite know what they could be announcing related to Android that would be very surprising or new.   I still was pretty surprised by two new Android announcements. The first was Instant Apps, this new idea that people can click a web link on their phone, and run a portion of a native Android app, without actually having to download the app!

I have no idea how this is going to work from a development standpoint, so I am really excited to learn more. They didn’t have a lot of implementation details at I/O, but you can sign up here for an early preview.

The other big Android keynote announcement was FIREBASE ALL THE THINGS. Google is really excited about Firebase, which now really expands its reach in terms of functionality.

Not only did it get top billing during the keynote, there were TOOONS of Firebase sessions throughout the conference.

In the Android-specific talk, they announced the new Android Constraint Layout view and tool, which looks pretty cool.  The idea is that ConstraintLayout is a new layout element kind of like RelativeLayout only better. Items are placed relative to each other in a GUI, and the XML is created for you. There are no nested layouts and the performance is supposedly better than RelativeLayout.  I only got about 40 minutes to play with it. It was much better than I expected, but I still had a moment where I did something and everything blew up. 🙁 I’m really excited to play with it more though! Check it out here.

Funny thing, this is the first conference I’ve ever done a code lab.  I always usually just bring my computer with me, lug it around all day, desperately attempt to download the latest stuff on bad wifi, and halfway try out tutorials. This time I left my computer at my AirBnB, and waltzed up to a code lab station with everything pre-loaded for me.  I just sat down and started coding, and it was amazing. I have no idea why I have been doing this wrong all this time.

The Android Studio team somehow still had awesome things to announce, even though they have been churning amazing features out right and left these days.  Besides the Constraint Layout tool, the big thing I’m excited about is Espresso Test Recorder! This is not out yet, but should be coming very very soon.  The idea is that you can run through your application, and Android Studio creates the basic skeleton of an Espresso test suite based on your actions within the app. So awesome! This is going to be such a time saver and I CANNOT WAIT!

I was really excited to see Accessibility was a hot topic again this year with several great sessions, and had a lot of fun visiting their booth as well.  I was hoping to learn more about testing your app for BrailleBack functionality.  I did learn that BraillBack is different enough from TalkBack that you can’t assume you are good to go on Brailleback if you’re good on TalkBack. And, unfortunately, there is no way to test your app with BrailleBack other than plugging in a Braille keyboard.  I was disappointed to learn this, because Braille keyboards are reeeaaaaally expensive, and I can’t really justify buying one if I only use it for testing apps.

The Android Wear 2.0 update also has me pretty excited! Standalone support for Wear apps is going to be awesome. After going from Glass to watches, I was kind of surprised that watches didn’t start out with that capability, but I’m glad they have it now!  Wear is also getting a new navigation structure, where you only go up or down; no more sideways movements. You will have contextual header and footer menus as well. Interesting!

Finally, I was very excited to hear that the Project Ara dev kit is coming soon! This modular phone has been on the top of my list for a long time, and I am so excited to see it coming to fruition.  You can learn more about Ara here.

There were so many amazing sessions this year! Last year I got closed out of so many sessions because of the tiny rooms. This year I got closed out of a few, but nothing like last year. And best of all, unlike last year, ALL sessions were recorded! Check out the full list here.

Other random highlights of I/O: Learning how to both Periscope and Snapchat (I’m kio.krofovitch), being called “the Twitter Lady” by a passerby, eating copious amounts of mac & cheese, and becoming 2 degrees from Sundar Pichai when Marcos snagged this selfie:

Of course, I/O was filled with amazing parties and most importantly AMAZING PEOPLE! I am so happy and proud to be part of a community that is so incredible! I miss you all and can’t wait to see you again next time!

saddle shoes on the amphitheater lawn listening to a concert

colorful tree at night

Musicians play in a geodesic dome, with galaxy overlay. People with light up costumes on stilts walk by

Android ladies

Adam and Kelly

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One Response to Google I/O 2016

  1. Pingback: Colorado Tech Weekly #155: Nothing Will Replace Meeting in Person - Scott Pantall

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