It’s that time of year again, where we get to learn about all the innovations Google is planning for the coming 12 months.  Google I/O 2016, happening May 18th, will be the first Google I/O since Google became Alphabet, and the biggest rumour suggests Android won’t really be a big focus.  Here’s what we expect to see at I/O 2016.

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We will still see Android.

The Android team is rumoured to be doing something that is “completely different” for I/O 2016, but expect the company to still touch on Android, its most popular platform.  In years before, Google would give audiences a look at the new version of the mobile OS, but Google has already given everyone a really good look at Android N.

Google Android N

Google release the developer preview for N in March and has already sent out one emoji-heavy update.  Google has laid plans for 3 more updates before the first stable release is set to go in September.  That does give Google time to talk about N.  Another rumour suggests that Google is looking replace Hangouts with a Messenger.

But these rumours about Android’s absence are focused on the mobile OS.  That leave space for Android TV and Android Wear.  Android TV is better than Google TV, but still not much better than you can get from any set-top box.  Google also has huge plans for Android Wear but those are set further in the future; right now, Wear has some serious limits.  Will we see other Google projects get rolled into TV or Wear?

Google’s Plans For VR

Google Cardboard, that cute fun VR project that got launched at I/O 2014,  helped get VR into millions of new hands for a low price.  Times have changed though, and Oculus Rift and HTC Vive are leading the charge for very high-quality, semi-affordable headsets.  That could mean Google is looking to build something much better than its cardboard headset.

Virtual Reality VR headset Collage

Google’s man behind its VR projects, Clay Bavor, has said that Google’s  ambitions don’t stop at just Google Cardboard.  These kind of comments, along with rumours from several reporters such as the WSJ have hinted at ‘Android for VR‘, but went completly unmentioned during I/O 2015.

This is Google: they don’t do small-scale things. All Bavor will say is that Cardboard’s nowhere near the last virtual reality project you’ll see from Google. Then he leans over, conspiratorially, and whispers again. “I would really like photorealistic virtual reality to exist.”

and Bavor made similar comments to Popular Science:

I think that if you’re more intentional in designing phones, designing software and go beyond Cardboard you can do something pretty magical that is even higher quality, higher performance and so on. But while maintaining many of the attributes that make Cardboard so powerful and appealing.

Google has several VR events planned for Google I/O.  One is called “VR at Google” and is described at such:  “what we have built, what we have learned, and where we are headed,”.  Rumours suggest everything from a suped-up Gear VR.  Expect VR to be a big topic of conversation.

[Updated #1] Chinese company Xiaomi has been cryptically tweeting that it’ll be involved in Google I/O.  But doing what?

[Update #2] Rumors from @peterrojas suggest that Android VR will indeed be a Gear VR, but not quite at the level of the Oculus Rift.

[Update #3] Android VR recently appeared in code in the Google Play Store developer console.  That would seal that deal.

Chrome and Android: Together at last?

Chrome OS

One of the most interesting rumours suggests that Chrome OS and Android will become one.  In April, ARS Technica dug up a dialog box saying the full Play Store was available on Chrome OS.  This could finally turn Chrome into what it always could have been, and Google could take the Microsoft-route and be able to run Chrome across any device

Live TV comes to YouTube

This rumour might be a big far-fetched, but reports suggests that YouTube is planning a Live TV service called ‘Unplugged” coming in 2017.  This is likely to happen one day, but YouTube likes its own announcements, like they did for YouTube Red and YouTube Music.

YouTube could launch the Live service at I/O in light of Hulu’s similar news.  If Google wants a piece of the Live TV Pie, YouTube is the place to do it.

Driverless Cars?

Rumours, and actual news, suggest Google is building it’s partnership Chrysler into a coalition for driverless cars.  The Head of Google X, Astro Teller, has stated the project is “close to graduating from X.”  Maybe we can actually get a glimpse of the Google Van.

Google-driverless-car

Its also possible, and rumoured, that Google may launch either a pilot program, or partnership.  Don’t expect a big announcement about driverless cars though, because politics has yet to catch up with the technology.

And Everything Else.

Google infamously has its hands in many different pies.  That makes it hard to predict what we will see, but here are some that might actually happen:

bi_graphics_alphabet-google-org-structure_05

Google’s Amazon Echo: The Information reported Google’s interest in making a device similar to Amazon’s Echo.  “Google Home” is rumoured to be there, and it likely won’t ship until the fall.

Project Tango: The AR tech landed with Lenovo, and the phone is set to be launched in the summer.  That means we could see some demos, or price.  Rumours suggest Lenovo is holding an event in June, so we could see Tango then.  A report from Bloomberg suggests Google may talk about Tango being used to map interiors, a la Google Maps.

Project Ara: The Ara modular smartphone could use some love:  Google realigned efforts on this by putting Rick Osterloh, ex President of Motorola in charge.  Maybe we will hear about what has happened here so far.

Google has tones of other projects on the go.  We could see updates from anyone in the Google Alphabet family, so that could include Calico, Loom, Verily, Google Glass, anything.

There could be a lot to take in, and viewers should expect some surprises. The fun begins Wednesday, May 18th at 1pm ET.

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