15 Striking Scenes From Google's I/O Developer Conference

Glimpsing Google's Latest And Greatest

Google's annual I/O developer conference is always closely watched, as the search firm typically stages demos of its latest advancements for the starry-eyed masses. This year, though, Google outdid itself, not only with several new products but also with a real-time demo involving a blimp, skydivers and mountain bikes.

CRN was there to take in all of the sights. Here's glimpse of what we saw.

Free Hardware

With more than 6,000 attendees in total, Google’s I/O developer conference in late June had San Francisco buzzing with excitement. The search giant’s annual soiree always includes free hardware, as well as a ton of marketing and advertising for Google’s latest products and services. This year’s Google giveaway consisted of the Samsung Galaxy Nexus phone and Samsung Chromebox desktop, as well as Google's Nexus 7 tablet and its new media gateway, the Nexus Q.

Google Wallet Gets New Time-Saving Features

Released last May, Google Wallet supports both the Google prepaid card and many eligible Citi MasterCards with PayPass.

The virtual wallet makes online and in-store purchases faster and more convenient by storing users' credit card information on their phones. According to Google, the app saves users time and money by enabling them to make purchases simply by tapping their phone on a card reader.

At Google I/O, the company unveiled a new ’Save to the Wallet’ feature for its app. This new feature will allow users to save coupons and other offers to their phones, via Google Wallet, and then use them later at the time of purchase. For now, this new API only works at select locations, but Google plans on making it available to more companies in the future.

Google Maps Gets An Upgrade

I/O attendees also had a chance to check out a Google Maps demonstration. One of Google’s more established products, Google Maps allows users to navigate through and view cities across the U.S. and abroad. Traffic and geographical layers can also be added to or taken from any street map, giving them a real-time feel.

Google Maps now works offline as well, meaning users will be able to access the vast databases of maps without internet access. However, this option is only available through the downloadable Google Maps app and only works on previously saved regions of 150 countries.

Reporting From Deep In The Field

In order to make deadlines and help capture the atmosphere of the event, reporters and bloggers at Google I/O worked on-location, as seen here. However, the heavy presence of Macbooks at a Google event caused more than one person to take a second glance. It appears that sometimes you just can’t keep the competitors out.

Startup RightScale Touts Cloud Technology

Ryan Geyer, sales engineer at cloud management startup RightScale (left), and Bailey Caldwell, vice president of business development at RightScale, talked about their company’s software for helping businesses launch and run applications across all types of clouds.

Santa Barbara, Calif.-based RightScale says its platform is specialized for small to medium-sized companies that may otherwise lack the funds to enter the world of cloud computing. Its cloud management technology is now integrated with Google Compute Engine, allowing customers to automatically upload and configure their content to the cloud while still retaining control of their workloads.

Google Drive Takes Center Stage

Google Drive, available through Google’s Play store as well as Apple’s App Store, allows for storage and syncing of data across multiple devices. Google Drive is an extension of Google Docs that is intended to serve as a central repository for users' files.

Google Drive makes all uploaded files accessible to their owner from any desktop PC or mobile device, which makes it easier for them to view and work with their documents from any location. Released in April, Google Drive includes 5 GB of free storage space, and customers can pay for additional space as needed.

Google Partner Debuts New 3-D Printer

Google showcased 3D Systems’ new multidimensional printing station, Cubify. The futuristic printer can produce 3-D printouts of just about anything, from clothing to robots to fully-dimensional landscape maps. The printer wirelessly receives intricate designs made with online templates and builds the structures by placing very thin layers of plastic on top of one another.

Cubify comes with pre-made templates, and 3D Systems expects developers to build additional customized ones to fit their needs. The company designed an app exclusively for Google I/O that allowed attendees to create customized nameplates for their complimentary Nexus 7 tablet stands.

'Who Am I?' Webcam Game

MagneticNorth, a UK-based digital design company, showcased their "Who Am I?" project at Google I/O. Commissioned by Google, magneticNorth’s game is similar to the guess-what-famous-person-you-are party game, but it adds webcams. Each player takes turns asking yes-or-no questions in order to figure out which famous person their opponent chose for them.

Developed using WebRTC, "Who Am I?" supports webcam chats using JavaScript API and features JavaScript face tracking, as well as Google Custom Search and Google’s App Engine to allow for synchronized gameplay.

Google Chrome Browser Gets Voice Recognition

Google announced several improvements to its Google Chrome browser, including apps with built-in voice recognition and an Apple-compatible version for the iPhone and iPad. Released to the public in December 2008, Google claims its Chrome browser is used by more than 310 million people worldwide.

Google Says Google+ Gathering Momentum

Google’s own take on social networking, Google+, now boasts 170 million users -- a drop in the bucket compared to Facebook’s 900 million but still a substantially large number. The site allows users to group their contacts together into "circles" based on description (e.g. friends, family, colleagues, etc.) and communicate specifically with certain spheres through webcam chats, group messaging and instantly uploaded mobile photos.

Land Of The Android

San Francisco's Moscone Center faced an Android-bot invasion last week as Google announced its updated version of its mobile operating system, Android 4.1, code-named "Jelly Bean." The latest installment of its prized OS includes faster performance and responsiveness, as well as Google Now, an improved search engine that can provide real-time results.

A Look At Google's Nexus 7 Tablet

Nexus 7, Google’s first step into the tablet hardware market, was officially unveiled at Google I/O, though news of the device had already leaked prior to the event. With one, user-facing camera and a 1,280 x 800-pixel display capable of viewing 720p high-definition videos, the Nexus 7 isn’t just another e-reader. Despite its small size, the Nexus 7 tablet has a lot to offer -- most notably the Android 4.1 Jelly Bean OS.

Priced at $199, Google’s Nexus 7 is said to compete price-wise with the Kindle Fire but boast iPad-like features and specifications. However, Nexus 7 is already facing a firestorm of litigation proceedings by Nokia, which is claiming that the tablet infringes on its Wi-Fi patents.

Cloud Sherpas Demo Sparks Conversation Among Attendees

Google solution provider Cloud Sherpas, which last year won Google's Enterprise Partner Of The Year award for its work with Google Compute Engine, touted its momentum at I/O. Cloud Sherpas works with clients ranging from schools to enterprises, helping them become more integrated with the mobile cloud movement.

The View From Outside

This year’s Google I/O logo was hard to miss, as it was sprawled across the building’s vast glass exterior. Google’s iconic red location marker also stood outside the door, and Google spent time talking about its new Google Places service, previously called the Local Business Center, which lets users search their surrounding area to find the closest restaurant, bar or grocery store.

Android For Business

Google is hoping to change the perception that Android is only for consumers, and at I/O, it showcased apps that allow users to create Word documents and Excel spreadsheets on-the-go, access company documents in the cloud, and swap contacts by "bumping" their phones together.

Google is looking to make the same splash in the BYOD market that Apple has with its iPhone and iPad, by offering mobile devices with appealing and useful features for both consumers and business users.