Google’s Offering Smarter Tools For Smarter Apps And Homes

When it comes to developer tools, Google made them rain like a dance enthusiast bestowing dollar bills on a virtuoso performer Thursday at its Google I/O developer conference in San Francisco.

The announcements covered updates on existing software tools, as well as brand-new ones for everyone from game developers, virtual-reality media creators, as well as app makers trying to connect our smart homes.

Now it’s time for developers to strut their stuff and show what they can do to earn their keep.

Android Studio 1.3 Fills In The NDK Pothole


Two years ago, Google announced Android Studio, an IDE (integrated development environment) for building Android apps. Although it has since graduated out of beta, some developers were still stymied by it—mainly because, if you used Google’s Native Development Kit (NDK) to use C and C++ code, you were out of luck.

The company’s new upgrade, Android Studio 1.3, now offers built-in NDK support. The news may surprise folks who have been paying attention to Android development, primarily because Google generally discourages the use of the NDK, unless it’s absolutely essential. The company is a staunch believer in using Java to write Android apps. 

That doesn’t quite cut it for certain types of apps, like games that rely on physics simulations and other intensive processes. Sometimes, you just can’t beat native code. 

Android Studio releases will work somewhat like Chrome: Developers can stick with the more standard “Stable” avenue; dive into possibly buggy, but new features with the “Beta channel; or the very newest (read: most likely very glitchy, but probably coolest) updates available through “Canary” releases. 

As such, the very latest studio version 1.3 will hit Canary first, so if you’ve got a strong constitution and are willing to deal with some (likely) bugs, you don’t have to wait for the wrinkles to smooth out later. 

More from Google:

Android Studio v1.3 Preview – To help take advantage of the M Developer Preview features, we are releasing a new version of Android Studio. Most notable is a much requested feature from our Android NDK & game developers: code editing and debugging for C/C++ code. Based on JetBrains Clion platform, the Android Studio NDK plugin provides features such as refactoring and code completion for C/C++ code alongside your Java code. Java and C/C++ code support is integrated into one development experience free of charge for Android app developers. Update to Android Studio v1.3 via the Canary channel and let us know what you think.

Google didn’t leave out Web developers either. The newly announced Polymer 1.0 lets developers make their desktop and mobile Web apps and services feel more like native apps running locally on devices. They can add toolbars, menus, maps and other features. 


Brillo And Weave Aim To Make Smart Homes Simpler

The tech giant took aim at the complexity inherent in the Internet of Things (IoT)—the movement to connect gadgets, sensors, appliances and more to the Internet and each other—in particular, the smart home niche. Along with its Nest division, the company introduced Brillo, its now-official operating system for the IoT, and Weave, which will give developers a common language so they can talk to each other.

Brillo, essentially a modified form of Android, gives budding smart-home players a very small, lightweight, and more secure platform (or so Google promises) that can power a variety of hardware products. 

It’s downright stingy when it comes to power management, to help spare batteries in things like sensors and other connected hardware that may not get jacked into a power outlet.

Brillo, which ties into a central command console, will support wireless connectivity through Wi-Fi and Bluetooth Low Energy.

Google bills Weave as its cross-platform communications layer—which means it will allow a variety of devices, not just Android gadgets, to talk to each other. The company says that with Brillo and Weave, it will offer a modular approach that lets developers use one or both. Google will also produce a certification program, to outline specifics and guidelines.

Of course, simplifying the often frustrating, complicated smart-home-using experience is a popular mission. Groups like Qualcomm’s AllJoyn Alliance and frameworks, like Apple’s HomeKit all share a common goal of getting all those lights, door locks, moisture sensors and more talking to servers in the cloud and other local devices more easily.

Brillo’s developer preview will launch some time this fall, with Weave to follow later in the year.

These tools just scratch the surface. The company unleashed a slew of other tools in the Android M developer preview covering fingerprint scanning authentications, cloud messaging, app install ads, a new developer console and more. Google also revealed its Cardboard “Jump” plans to help virtual reality video creators piece together their own rigs. For the full rundown, visit the Android Developers blog


The company did not make any major hardware announcements at its keynote address, though it paid some lip service to products and initiatives such as Chromecast, Android Auto and Android TV. 

Instead, it relied on its software and cloud presentations (including Now On Tap and Google Photos) to bring the excitement. For app makers, the company may well have succeeded, if the new tools fill the gaps and simplify things, as promised. We’ll know how well they work once the tools actually get in developers’ hands. 

Photos by Adriana Lee for ReadWrite

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