Recap: Google 2021 I/O

Recap: Google 2021 I/O

Google kicked off their 2021 I/O in May and has again, impressed us with all of their technological advances throughout the past year. Google I/O is the big tech company’s annual developer conference, where they announce new hardware, software, and updates to their existing services and apps. I/O stands for input/output as well as the slogan “Innovation in the Open”. From visual updates on Android to a new AI, the company has made some big moves. While we recommend you to personally attend the on-demand videos to catch all the details, here are a couple of highlights to save you time.

Google Maps

First on the Google Maps front are two new features being added to the app. The first feature is “Eco-Friendly Routes” where Google will recommend routes that are more fuel-efficient, resulting in reduced car emissions. The second feature is “Safer Routing”, where it utilizes AI to recommend a route that is safest for the driver. It will consider the road, traffic, and weather conditions in real-time.

Google Maps has had many AI improvements over the past couple of years to make the experience for travelers more seamless and more interactive. In 2019, they introduced Live View, where it uses AR navigation to project walking directions. It continued to evolve on a big scale; there were 100+ AI changes in the past year alone. Users can now point their cameras in the direction they like and it will display hard-to-read street signs as well as key landmarks directly on their screen. When pointing the camera at a building, Google will immediately label the type of building it is and their business hours, if applicable. Furthermore, Live View can now be used indoors to help users navigate through transit stations, malls, and airports.

Although all that was mentioned earlier is already amazing innovations, Google is taking it one step further; they will now tailor results based on the time of day and factors that matter most to the user. For example, there will be more cafes displayed in the early morning and Google will display local landmarks and tourist attractions if the user is in a new city. It can even show how busy that location is in real-time. These are all great features and will be rolled out globally in the coming months.

Google Workspace

Working from home is now the new normal. Understanding the change, Google has made it easier for coworkers and teammates to collaborate virtually. With Smart Canvas, the apps and services within Docs, Sheets, and Slides will be more seamless, leading to a richer experience. There is now a companion mode, which allows users to meet and converse directly in Docs and Sheets. On top of the new feature, there were improvements in the technology, such as noise cancellation, automatic adjustment of camera and lighting, and customized views. My personal favorite is an upgrade to their Live Captions. It makes communication easier between coworkers from different parts of the world as Google Meet can now translate the speaker’s presentation to the viewer’s language in real-time as captions.

Google Shopping

Google is partnering with Shopify to make shopping online more seamless, especially after seeing an 80% increase in online sellers this year. The advancements span all over Google, such as platforms like Google Lens, YouTube, Google Search, and Google Chrome. Through Lens and Search, users can soon utilize the “Search Inside Screenshot” button which will scan products directly in a photo and link the user to the product. For YouTube, users can see and shop for the products that are directly shown in the videos they are watching. In Chrome, users can see their open shopping carts from various sites aggregated in a tab as well as opt-in for price drop notifications. Promotions and discounts will also be displayed in the tab.

Google Photos

The AI in Google Photos will identify patterns through a series of numbers which will piece pictures together to tell a story. For example, it can identify similar shapes and colors, aggregating photos of coffee art altogether or aggregating a collection of the user’s family hanging out on the couch. Google also introduced Cinematic Photos, which uses neural networks to synthesize movement between Image A and Image B. In simpler terms, users can create a moving picture by piecing several similar still shots together. It will work on Android, iOS, and even scanned images.

Privacy and Safety

Privacy is a major concern in Digital Marketing. Users are afraid of being constantly tracked so Google has implemented new features to help strengthen the trust between sites and site users. Their principle is to be secure by default and private in design. To start, all new Google accounts will have their data automatically deleted after 18 months. Of course, if the user wishes to have their information deleted more often, they may toggle with the settings.

To go into details, user information is secure by default as it is protected by advanced AI-driven technology. They have encrypted over 4 billion photos and have constant security scans in Google Play. Additionally, users can create, save, and auto-fill passwords from each account in one spot with Google’s Password Manager. Chrome can even help users change their passwords with a single tap through Google Assistant.

They also addressed how it will be private in design. They explicitly noted that they would never sell personal information that is stored in Gmail, Google Photos, and Google Drive for advertising purposes. They also explained their plans with their new privacy-focused initiatives like the Privacy Sandbox and the Federated Learning of Cohorts. If you would like more information on what these initiatives entail, please see this blog article:

Tensor Processing Units (TPU)

Google has upgraded their TPU from the V3 chip to the V4 chip, which is now twice as fast. It will be available to Cloud customers. The V4 chip has 10x the interconnect bandwidth per chip and will deliver more than 10-18 flops.

Material You

Google is offering a bold and colorful change to their design with Material You. It will be coming to Android, Wear OS, Chrome OS, Google smart home devices, and more. Material You gives users endless customization through its dynamic theming capabilities. The system essentially offers users control over the contrast, size, and width of text and icons.

What’s New In Search

Sites are shifting to HTTP/2, the next major version of HTTP. With HTTP/2, crawling will become more time-efficient as Google will open a single TCP connection and request multiple files in parallel. As John Mueller noted, the decision to crawl with HTTP/2 is based on whether the server supports it and whether [Google’s] systems determine there’s a possible efficiency gain. Over half of all URLs are being crawled by HTTP/2 now. Site owners will need to enable HTTPS and HTTP/2 on their webserver to enroll in a faster crawl. As a result of all this, there have been over 60% connection savings and over 60% saved bandwidth.

There are new features in the Search Console such as Crawl Stats and Page Experience Report that will make site developers’ life much easier. Crawl Stat will provide you a summary of how many crawl requests were made, what the server’s response was, and any availability issues that came along the way. It is great to have because developers do not need to analyze server log files to get this information anymore. The Page Experience report provides a summary of the user experience of visitors to your site. It will evaluate the good URLs within a developer’s site and use them as a ranking signal for a URL in Google Search for mobile usability.

These are just some of the many technological advances Google mentioned in their virtual conference. To watch the on-demand videos, visit the designated event page: