With its cash coming from search and advertising, Google could easily have been a very dull compnay indeed. Instead it chose to invest in a mind-boggingly range of technologies - some of which may not come to fruition for decades. Google IO is the company's big annual event where it gets to show off its progress across all these areas, so we'll see the latest on self-driving cars, virtual & augmented reality, plus phones you can build to your own specific needs.
Alongside such ideas, though, we'll also see more practical advancements in the Google services of today, in operating systems, applications and online services. We'll hopefully see a new version of Android, a new cloud photo service and lots of other improvements to existing Google technology we all use everyday.
We'll be reporting on the event as it happens, from the opening keynote through two days of presentations. This article will be our hub, and we'll link out to the various big stories as we cover them across the site. So keep coming back for all the latest.
How to watch and IO Schedule
Google IO will kick off with a keynote at 5.30pm UK time on Thursday the 28th of May. You can watch that keynote, and many more events at the conference via Google's own livestream. And unlike some other tech companies, Google has a great track record with its livestreams actually working – well it does have the experience and technology of YouTube behind it.
Then at 9pm on the same day, Google will present 'What's new in Android', where we should see the latest version of the new operating system; and if you're willing to stay up until midnight then there's sessions on both 'Growing games with Google' and 'Material Now', which should please gamers and UI design fans.
The second day kicks off for us with the intriguingly titled 'A little badass. Beautiful. Tech and human. Work and love. ATAP.' at 5pm which looks to be about wearable technology among other things. Then at 6pm we have an update on Project Tango, Google's augmented reality technology. At 7pm we'll be tuning into 'Designing for Virtual Reality' and then we'll settle down on the couch for 'Developing for the living room' at 9pm. Finally at 10pm there's a talk on Android Wear scheduled, which will round off our coverage.
Undoubtedly the biggest story on day one should be the unveiling of the first version of Android M. The next version of the mobile operating system will undoubtedly contain many small improvements over Lollipop, however Google usually has one big project attached to such updates. This time around it looks to be about 'work', with a session description stating that it: "brings the power of Android to all kinds of workplaces." It makes sense for Google to want to use Android's popularity as a trojan to take a greater share of the business computing market from Microsoft, though how interesting that is the man-in-the-street is debatable.
We're also expecting developments in voice control and Google Now. The former will be necessary if Android is going to proliferate away from the touchscreen, see Android Auto and wearables below, and the latter should reduce the amount of inputs you have to make anyway, by automatically providing what you need, when you need it.
There's also been unsubstantiated reports that Google will announce fingerprint recognition support for upcoming handsets, which would tie in nicely with its aspirations for Android Pay, which is also rumoured to feature heavily.
Google Cardboard was a huge hit at the 2014 Google IO conference. However, since then the makeshift VR headset has failed to find a serious use. Google isn't giving up on this democratisation of VR though, and recently announced a 'Works with Google Cardboard' certification programme to bring all the various VR apps, and headsets, together and make them play nicely.
With a talk on VR scheduled at Google IO, we're hoping to see more on Google Cardboard, and maybe even some content deals to try and drive uptake of this great technology. It's even possible that Google will go one step further and announce a new, more sophisticated headset, to make it a bigger player in the VR space. Although we'd have thought that getting other manufacturers, such as HTC/Valve, Sony and Samsung, to support its API would be a more immediate goal.
Devices – Nexus and Android Wear
We're looking forward to a new Nexus smartphone, or smartphones, this year – following the slightly disappointing Nexus 6 from 2014. However it seems far too early in the year to be showing off new hardware now and Google IO isn't the usual place to do it. So we'd strike that one of the list.
Android Wear started well, but in our minds the whole wearables market needs to move beyond the current watch obsession (driven largely by Apple and its competitors) and try something a little different. Still for now, the smartwatch is likely to be the key device discussed in Google's Android Wear event. We might even see a new device to demo new features, an honour which manufacturers would likely to be queuing up for. We'd like too see a follow up to the Motorola Moto 360 for starters.
We use Google for a lot of things, but the company's photo storage has always been a bit confused. It started off with Picasa Web Albums, which was kind of linked to the excellent but offline, Picasa photo editing and organisation application. Then Google took Web Albums and integrated it into Google+, which became a bit of a problem as no one really used Google+. However, but then Android would let you upload your pictures (at lower resolutions) for free from your phones, so we started using it anyway, and then we found that you could upload images at high resolutions, if you were willing to use up some Google Drive space. Confused yet, well many were.
But now it looks like Google is separating Photos away from Google+, according to Bloomberg. Details are hazy but the ability to share photos with Facebook and Twitter looks to be on the cards. We'd imagine that the service will still be tied to your Google Drive data allowance in some way, at present you get 15GB for free, but a standalone app and website would go a long way to making Google a big player in photo storage for Android users.
Android is spreading rapidly. At this year's event there are talks on Android in the living room, which should provide us with more details about Google's plan for Android TV. Once a standalone box, Android has now been directly integrated by some TV manufacturers, notably Sony and Philips. You can read our thoughts on Sony's Android TV.
Android Auto is also bound to feature, with the operating system set to replace manufacturer's in-car systems rather than simply run alongside them. We're not sure how the car companies will take that, given their need to differentiate themselves in a crowded market. However, if Google's product is better, and easy to understand for Android users, then manufacturers may quickly flock to switch, simply adding their own additional feature and front-end styling as Android phone manufacturers do.
With its own talk dedicated to it, we're sure to hear more on Project Tango. The original tablet device that scanned 3D space and could be used to map a building into virtual space, or to play augmented reality games is probably just the beginning of Google's ambitions in this area. It ties in very closely to the potential uses for Google Glass-type headsets, and we're keen to see what Google has planned in this 'space'.