Dear Google, I want Google IO 2022 to wow me.
Not, "Oooh, that's a nice new smartwatch," wowed, or "Oh, my, a Nest Hub with a removable screen," dazzled, but "the CEO just jumped out of an airplane," stunned.
Can you do that?
I get it, much of what we're expecting from Google IO 2022, your first back-in-person event since 2019, could be broadly described as a large paintbrush dipped in paint the shade of "incremental." Not one prediction for Android 13, the Google Pixel 6a, or even that Pixel Watch described earth-shattering consumer technology leaps.
Android will, as it's been doing for well over a decade, get better. More controls around privacy, notifications, and cooperation with other Google platforms like Chrome. That's nice.
A Nest Hub that lets me walk around with just the screen sounds useful, especially for home automation, but it's not like I haven't seen that before. Most office automation systems I've used started with removable screens.
Sure, the Pixel Watch, at least based on possible leaks, carelessness, or intentionally leaving it in a bar, might be a stunner, but it's still just a smartwatch (unless it also magically converts into a 6.7-inch smartphone).
The wow I want harkens back to the unpredictable founders. I will never forget Sergey Brin's skydiving Google Glass launch announcement (Pro skydivers jumped during IO 2012 and Brin jumped out of an airplane wearing the glasses on a later date). Obviously, Google Glass wasn't quite the revolution everyone expected, but it was a completely new product that, if we're being fair, continues to influence product development across Microsoft, Apple, Nreal, Magic Leap, and other mixed-reality developers.
No one expects current Google CEO and all-around-chill guy Sundar Pichai to jump out of a golf car, let alone an airplane (or have anyone else do it on his behalf). But Pichai is not immune to a little razzle-dazzle.
Intelligence and touch
Back in 2018, Pichai devoted a significant chunk of the Google IO keynote to its experimental Voice AI: Duplex. Duplex could not only carry on rudimentary conversations, it could, as demonstrated that day, fool real people into thinking they were talking to humans. To demonstrate, Pichai had Duplex make a hair appointment for him. The AI called and started the conversation, asking:
"Hi, I’m calling to book a woman’s haircut appointment for a client, um, I’m looking for something on May third?”
The attendant needed a moment to check and Duplex casually responded with a rather human, "Mmm-hmm."
I recall there was significant back and forth until they (human and computer) settled on a day and time.
Flabbergasted, I wrote that this might have been the moment Google passed the Turing Test. As suggested by Computer Scientist Alan Turing in the 1950s, it's the moment at which a computer might be able to fool a human into thinking they're talking to another human at least 30% of the time.
Yes, this was a big, memorable IO moment.
So was the time at Google IO 2015, when we were introduced to touch-senstive fabric. Project Jacquard showed us jackets and sleeves that could respond to touch. Instead of reaching into your pocket and feeling for the volume button on your phone, you could just brush your hand along your sleeve and raise or lower the volume. It was exciting, if slightly impractical.
My point is that I do not come to or watch Google IO for the workman-like, everyday announcements. I can't deny the importance of Android 13, wearable technology like the Pixel Watch, or affordable smartphones like the anticipated Pixel 6a, but I'd be lying if I said any of them turn me on.
Give me a glimpse of the products of Google's legendary 20% time projects. Show me a moonshot. Unveil crazy. Take a leap, surprise, and inspire us.
This is what I want from IO 2022. I hope you're listening, Google.
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A 35-year industry veteran and award-winning journalist, Lance has covered technology since PCs were the size of suitcases and “on line” meant “waiting.” He’s a former Lifewire Editor-in-Chief, Mashable Editor-in-Chief, and, before that, Editor in Chief of PCMag.com and Senior Vice President of Content for Ziff Davis, Inc. He also wrote a popular, weekly tech column for Medium called The Upgrade.
Lance Ulanoff makes frequent appearances on national, international, and local news programs including Live with Kelly and Ryan, Fox News, Fox Business, the Today Show, Good Morning America, CNBC, CNN, and the BBC.