Also, based on popular demand, we’ve finally added a Clear All button at the top. Yeah. Feels good! But my absolute favorite feature is something that we call Quick Switch. You can now flip to the previous app you were in just by double-tapping the Recents button from anywhere. You can think of it like a simplified Alt-Tab. And it’s amazingly useful in so many situations. For example, let’s say I’m in a phone call and I’m trying to coordinate an event. I can flip over to the Calendar app I was just in by double-tapping the Recents button at the bottom right. From there, I can check my schedule and then flip back to the dialer by double-tapping the Recents button again. It’s pretty cool.
Now, many of you have also asked for the ability to display more than one app at the same time. So we’ve invested a lot of effort in redesigning our window management framework in N. And we’re introducing two powerful new windowing modes in this release: Split-Screen and Picture-in-Picture. Split-screen is designed for tablets and phones and it’s really simple to use. So, for example, let’s say I’m watching a video on YouTube to learn how to make the best nachos. I can long-tap on the Recents button to enter multi-window and from there launch something like Google Keep, for example. Now I can update my shopping list for ingredients while I’m watching the video.
The second mode, Picture-in-Picture, is designed for Android TV and it’s a great way to let you keep watching something while you perform another task. For example, let’s say I’m watching a live TV program on retro gaming and they’re talking about Pac-Man and I want to see if I can install and play the game myself. I can put the live content into Picture-in-Picture mode to keep watching it and then go ahead and perform a voice search for Pac-Man. This will then give me an option to install the game from the Play Store, all at the same time as watching the content. It’s pretty cool.
Notifications is another area we’ve worked on to improve productivity in Android and it turns out that today over half of the notifications shown in Android originate from messaging applications. So we decided to make some changes to really optimize for this use case. We’ve added a new direct reply feature which lets you quickly reply to a message like so. You no longer need to launch the app to fire off a quick response, so it’s a real time saver.
We’ve also added a feature to give you more control over notifications. With N, you can long-tap a notification to change its visibility. For example, you can block notifications from a given app or set them to show only silently. So now you’re able to choose which application — which notifications are important for you.
One other area we’ve worked on to improve your productivity in Android is your ability to express yourself with Emoji and Android is the first mobile platform to support the new Unicode 9 Emoji standard. And with this addition are more human-looking glyphs and support for skin tone variations. Unicode 9 also brings 72 new emoji glyphs, so now you can let your friends know, for example, when you’re dancing like a left shark while juggling and eating avocado toast in order to win first prize in that selfie contest, basically my typical Friday night. Not!
But more seriously, we’re really committed to this space and we’re continuing to work with the Unicode consortium on the next generation of emoji. In particular, you may have seen some of our suggestions around better representing women in professional roles, so thank you for all the support for that so far.
All right. Let’s wrap up. Android N is the best version of Android yet. I have to say that. But it’s actually true. We’ve made it faster and more performant with the powerful new JIT compiler and Vulkan 3D graphics. We’re continuing to harden our security and provide the first truly seamless software update system for mobile. And we’re making users more productive, with better multitasking, brand-new multi-window support and improved notifications. In fact, there are over 250 major new features in N. Everything from Java 8 language support Lambdas to data saver, setting suggestions and much, much more. You can check out the “What’s New in Android” session later today to learn even more.
We’re still putting the final touches on the N release and we expect to launch it later this summer, but if you can’t wait until then, I’m happy today to announce that we’re publishing our first beta-quality release candidate for you to try out on your main phone or tablet. You’ll be able to opt into the new beta program at www.android.com/beta and run N on your Nexus 6, 9, 5X, 6P, Nexus Player, and Pixel C.
Now, there’s one more area in N that we’ve been working hard on that we haven’t talked about yet. And to tell you more about what it is and how it fits into our bigger plans, let me invite up Clay Bavor. Thank you.
Clay Bavor – VP, Virtual Reality at Google
Thank you, Dave. I’m Clay Bavor, and I lead the Virtual Reality team at Google. And, yeah, just to get right to it, virtual reality is coming to Android N. So it all actually started at a Google I/O two years ago with Cardboard. And since then Cardboard has done some pretty amazing things. There are millions of them out there in the world, in all shapes and sizes. We’ve enabled thousands of developers to build their first VR app, and users have installed over 50 million Cardboard-enabled apps. We think that’s pretty good for what is, after all, just a piece of cardboard.
Now, we love Cardboard, and for us, it represents so much of what we think VR should be about. It should be mobile. It should be approachable, it should be for everyone.
But we knew it was just a start because there’s a limit to how much you can do, how immersive of an experience you can create with some cardboard and with phones that were really only meant to be phones. We wanted to create something that has the best attributes of Cardboard but which is also comfortable, richly interactive and far more immersive. But to create that kind of immersion, you have to solve — to make your brain say, yep, I’m somewhere else, you have to solve a lot of really hard problems across all parts of the VR experience. You have to design a system that’s capable of rendering at very high frame rate and resolution. To make the experience really comfortable you have to minimize what’s called motion to photon latency. That’s the delay between when you move your head and when the picture updates to reflect that motion. And you need to solve for how you interact with things in VR. And when you nail those things it just feels like you’re there.
Well, we’ve been working on these problems and more. And what we’ve built won’t be available until this fall, but we’d like to introduce you to it today. We call it Daydream.
Daydream is our platform for high quality mobile virtual reality, and in it are all of the ingredients you need to create incredible immersive VR experiences. Now over time Daydream will encompass VR devices in many shapes and sizes, but today it’s about how Daydream will enable high quality VR on Android smartphones.
And there are three parts to it. The smartphones themselves, including VR optimizations to Android N, are reference designed for a headset and a controller, and apps, both how you get them through Google Play and the apps themselves. We’ve designed and built each part in concert with the others with a focus on getting the end-to-end user experience just right.
So let’s start with smartphones. Now the first thing we did was look at what it takes to build a smartphone that’s great at being a smartphone but also at being the core of a VR system. And with input from the major silicon vendors and smartphone manufacturers, we’ve created a set of phone specifications for VR. And we call phones that meet these specs Daydream-ready. And the specs include things like high performance sensors for accurate head tracking, displays with a fast response time to minimize blur, and powerful mobile processors. And if a phone meets these specs, it will be capable of delivering a great VR experience.
But the smartphone itself, it’s only part of the story. The operating system, the software, it needs to be able to make use of all of these capabilities, all while keeping latency to an absolute minimum. So we’ve introduced what we call VR Mode as part of Android N. We’ve worked at all levels of the Android stack to optimize it for VR. And we focused in particular on performance and latency, which we brought down to under 20 milliseconds. By adding things like single buffer rendering, and VR system UI, so notifications and alerts come through properly in VR. And all of this makes for a really comfortable VR experience that we think users are going to love.
Now, it’s important, these improvements are part of the core of Android N, so the entire ecosystem can benefit. And what that means for developers is there are going to be a lot of Daydream-ready phones. In fact, Samsung, Alcatel, Asus, Huawei, HTC, LG, Xiaomi, and ZTE all will have smartphones that are compatible with the Daydream-ready spec and several will be available this fall. So that’s phones with Daydream-ready phone specs and the VR optimizations as part of Android N.
Let’s turn to headsets. Now this is obvious but a VR headset, it’s something that you wear on your head. And because it’s something that you wear, there are so many things you need to get just right. It has to have great optics. It has to be comfortable. The materials need to feel good. And it needs to be really easy to put on and take off. We’ve taken what we’ve learned in all of these areas and we’ve created a reference design for headsets that will work seamlessly with Daydream-ready phones. And we’re sharing this design with partners across the ecosystem and there will be several of them coming to market with the first available this fall.
Now, when it comes to VR, everyone thinks about headsets, but the controller, how you interact with VR, it’s just as important. We wanted to create a controller that’s optimized for VR, that’s both powerful and intuitive. And so we’ve been working on a controller for Daydream. Looks like this. And if we actually zoom in a little bit, you can see the controller itself, it’s very simple. There are few buttons and a clickable touchpad so you can scroll and swipe. But hidden inside the controller is the magic. We’ve built in orientation sensors so it knows where it’s pointing, how it’s turning. And you can do some pretty awesome things with it. Let’s have a look.