The Latest: Familiarity in Google's newly unveiled services

The Latest on Google's sneak peek of services and gadgets (all times local):

12:20 p.m.

Google is announcing a lot of bells and whistles Wednesday — but a good chunk of them are already being done by rivals such as Amazon, Apple and Facebook.

It's a common theme these days, as tech giants and even their plucky startup rivals are copying each other's tools and features, sometimes improving on them and sometimes barely catching up.

Google, for example, added features to its internet-connected Home speaker — such as hands-free calling. That echoes Amazon's Echo speaker.

Google also unveiled Lens, which lets people point their camera at things to find out more information about them. Samsung is trying to some of that with its new Bixby Vision feature on the Galaxy S8 phones.

Though not a competitor, Google's slimmed-down phone operating system aimed at cheap Android phones is reminiscent of Facebook's own "skinny" version, called Facebook Lite. Both are aimed at getting more people to use the company's services, even if they live in developing countries and use cheap, older phones.



Google is developing a stand-alone virtual-reality headset — one that doesn't need a companion phone or personal computer.

Google says that it'll be able to optimize all components that way.

It's also bringing positional tracking, which recognizes movement as people walk around. That's typically limited to high-end systems such as the Oculus Rift from Facebook. Lower-end systems such as Google Cardboard and Samsung's Gear VR can detect head orientation, but aren't designed for full movement.

HTC and Lenovo will make the first stand-alone VR headsets using Google's system.

The devices won't be out until later in the year. Prices haven't been announced.

Google is making the announcement in California on Wednesday at its annual conference for app developers.


11:55 a.m.

Google wants to bring Android to more people around the world. It has launched a program for cheaper, entry-level devices.

Android Go is basically a "skinny" version of Android "O," the next operating system from Google.

Android powers more than 80 percent of the world's smartphones, but only a portion of them have the fastest processors and a high amount of memory.

Android Go is meant to work on phones used by many people in emerging countries, for example. It's a way for Google to help make Android-based smartphones even more ubiquitous around the world.

It includes rebuilt Google apps and a redesigned Play store for devices with less than 1 gigabyte of memory. These devices will automatically get Android Go instead of the full version.

Going forward, Google says every Android release will have a Go version.


11:40 a.m.

The next version of Google's Android operating system wants to make using your phone easier, faster and more secure.

Google provided a peek at the software's upcoming features Wednesday during its annual conference for computer programmers. So-called "wise" limits will gauge and control how much battery life your apps are using. A feature called Google Play Protect, meanwhile, will scan all your apps for malicious software.

A "beta" test version is available on Wednesday.

The operating system won't be released to the mass market until later this year. By then, Google will name the system after a dessert or sweet-tasting snack beginning with the letter "O'' as part of a years-old tradition.

Android powers more than 80 percent of the world's smartphones, but it often takes years for a new version of the software to make it on older models.

Apple plans to provide unveil changes to the operating system for its popular iPhone next month.


11 a.m.

Google says new tools will encourage sharing of photos that you might have meant to share — but forgot.

Google Photos will be able to suggest which photos to share and whom to share them with. The company envisions a world in which amazing photos are no longer left on people's phones because other pressing things in life got in the way.

Facebook has been trying to address this issue as well with its Moments app.

Google says you can also choose to share entire photo libraries or portions of them if you wish. For example, a couple could decide to share all photos they take of their kids, or pet iguana.

The company is realizing the evolving ways in which people take and share photos, and recognizing that even with a bevy of photo-sharing social media tools like Instagram and Facebook, sometimes people just want to share regular photos.


10:55 a.m.

Google's internet-connected Home speaker is ready to take on more chores in an attempt to become at least as versatile as Amazon's Echo.

There's hands-free calling, a feature Amazon just added to Echo. Google says Home will also feature "proactive assistance," which means notifying you ahead of time if you need to leave early to beat traffic, for example. Google is also adding more music and video services to Home.

The new abilities announced Wednesday will also enable the Home speaker to control and interact with a variety of Whirlpool and Jenn-Air appliances later this year. For instance, you can ask the digital assistant within Home to turn on the dishwasher or set the temperature on the oven.

The Alexa assistant on Amazon's Echo has already learned to perform thousands of different tasks. Its wider range stems, in part, from its head start on Google's Home device, which just came out in November.


10:40 a.m.

Google's digital assistant is hoping to outsmart Siri on Apple's iPhone.

Google is releasing its voice-controlled assistant on a free app designed for iPhone's operating system on Wednesday.

The move extends the potential reach of Google's assistant, which debuted last fall on the company's Pixel phone and an internet-connected speaker called Home. Siri has come as a built-in service on iPhones since 2011; Google's assistant will require an app download.

Both assistants can be summoned with a press of a button to answer questions, manage schedules and handle other routine tasks. Google is also adding new skills to the assistant, incorporating its "lens" tool, which lets people point their cameras at things to get more information about them.

Google believes its assistant can get people what they want more quickly because it draws upon the knowledge that the company has accumulated while running the world's most popular search engine.


10:25 a.m.

Google's latest tool lets you point your phone's camera at places and objects to get information about them.

You can find out the type of flower by pointing at it, for example, or get reviews for a restaurant you're walking by. The tool can extract Wi-Fi login and password when you point to a sheet with that information.

CEO Sundar Pichai says the new Google Lens is a set of vision-based computing capabilities that can understand what you are looking at. It will first be available as part of Google's assistant and photos products.

Pinterest has a similar tool. Also called lens, it lets people point their cameras at real-world items and find out where to buy them, or find similar things online.

Google is unveiling the new feature at a conference in California on Wednesday.


10 p.m. Tuesday

Google is about to provide the latest peek at its digital services and gadgets as it seeks to become an even more influential force in people's lives.

The overview will come Wednesday during Google's annual conference for thousands of computer programmers.

Google is expected to give the crowd a look at new twists in its Android software for mobile devices. Executives are also likely to detail plans for expanding the reach and capabilities of a voice-controlled digital assistant currently available on some smartphones and an internet-connected speaker called Home. Some of the unveiled products won't be out until later this year.

Many of Google's products are vying against similar offerings from Apple, Amazon and Microsoft.

Wednesday's keynote takes place at an outdoor theater near the company's Mountain View, California, headquarters.