Saturday, 30 May 2015

Saving grace of Google I/O 2015: Jacquard, Soli, Abacus and other exciting projects that did it for Google

It was just yesterday we felt Google hadn’t done much this I/O. And then they came up with touch-sensitive fabric. That’s exactly the kind of technological innovation we were expecting on Day 1 of Google I/O 2015. The inspiring kind. If there’s one thing we’ve learned this I/O, it’s to keep a closer eye at ATAP. The name ought to raise your curiosity, and stands for Advanced Technology and Projects. It’s like Google Labs, but for far more exciting interfaces and hardware technologies. Google hasn’t disappointed us this time!
Project Jacquard
This was a pleasant surprise. In simple terms, it a perfect combination of conductive fibres woven into your favourite fabric that enables sensors to be embedded into your favourite denim. May not impress you, but when Levi’s partners with Google’s Project Jacquard to design denim that has intelligence in it, you expect denim with fuzzy logic!
Levi's Paul Dillinger Project Jacquard Google IO 2015
Paul Dillinger of Levi Strauss on stage at Google I/O 2015 talks about Project Jacquard and the association between Google and Levi’s. Image: levistrauss.com
Besides the partnership with Levi’s the approach taken by Google ATAP to weave conductive fibres into fabric with miniature circuits seamlessly integrated into clothing is, we believe, the next step in technological innovation. Akin to the sci-fi predictions we’ve read in the years gone by. The official video by Google is a must watch:
Project Ara
Similar to Android itself, founded by Andy Rubin in 2003, Project Ara has enjoyed familiarity as the next transition in the way we perceive mobile devices. Instead of advanced systems that face obsolescence every 2 years, Project Ara defines a modular approach towards a smartphone. What Android and the Open Handset Alliance meant for software, Project Ara means to hardware.
If you want a better keyboard, you install a new keyboard layer from the Google Play Store. Imagine the same for your camera, or memory, or graphics capabilities. You could swap hardware modules like you did on desktop PCs and laptops.
Google finally demoed a working prototype on stage at I/O 2015 by putting together an Ara device and it worked! That raised hopes of what was getting known as a modern day fable. For more on Ara, you could read our coverage here.
Project Soli
Project Soli was a well guarded secret at Google ATAP. Although the concept isn’t new, it’s probably the best rendering of an ancient idea is contemporary technology. In the 1920s, Leon Theremin developed and patented a device that used hand gestures to play music. Too bad for the modern world, that it didn’t go mainstream.
leon-theremin
The Theremin was a gesture-based musical instrument. Image: theremin.info
Those were the days of valves before semiconductor transistors took over since being invented in the 1950s. Indeed the world has come a long way since then.
soli-evolution
A sensor, the size of a grain of sand, can detect hand gestures and control your gadget. Project Soli might just change the way you interact with technology.
Touch interfaces are now mainstream with digital technologies being a given. It probably took another Russian born whiz to bring a ground breaking innovation to change the way we perceive technology and interfaces! Ivan, we’re impressed!
Project Vault
Project Vault, as anyone would guess is got to do with security. It helps secure your devices with a microSD card. In October last year, Google had announced it was providing USB security key for super-secure two step verification. This is taking it to the next level. More so, because microSD cards are now in use in more devices than traditional PCs and laptops and is the obvious result of the declining PC industry and the onslaught of mobile devices. Back in the early days of enterprise security, hardware security keys would have to connected to the USB interface. A physical way of preventing software exploits. When you have to move away from your system, you simply unplug the key and authentication would be lost.
Welcome to the Vault, you now have a mix of cryptographic tools and custom real-time operating system on the memory stick to guard your secure data while you access it.
Project Abacus
If Project Vault seemed a natural evolution of a earlier security mechanism, Project Abacus is the machine-learning means and an intelligent and continuously evolving way of customising security keys and providing access by learning the users’ behaviour and interaction with a system.
This, we believe, is just the beginning and hopefully would evolve into a stable mechanism over a period of time, probably years. Nonetheless, the vast array of product concepts and prototypes unveiled at this year’s Google I/O by Google ATAP has given us enough to stay happy and look forward to, through the year ahead.