Google has laid out its most comprehensive vision yet for a post-smartphone era, as it unveiled a range of new software and services partly aimed at catching up with rivals such as Facebook and Amazon.
At its annual developer conference, the world’s biggest internet company showed off a new voice-activated device for the home, while also outlining plans for virtual reality headsets, as well as wearable devices that no longer rely on being constantly tethered to smartphones.
However, it also used the event to extend and revamp some of its main services for smartphones, including launching a new messaging app, in the latest bid to defend its core search business as mobile habits change.
Many of the technologies on display at the event, called Google I/O, will not be available to users for months or even years, though Google promised that several companies would sell VR hardware based on its technology before the end of 2016.
Showing off advanced technology plans like this was a sign of heightened pressure on Google and its rivals to demonstrate they were taking the lead in important new markets, he added.
Sundar Pichai, chief executive, acknowledged that Amazon had stolen a march on Google and the rest of the industry with the Echo, a voice-activated device designed to be used around the home.
In response, Mr Pichai unveiled Google Home, a vase-shaped gadget that can be used for voice searches, streaming music or connecting with apps.
In another bid to catch up with rivals, Google also showed off a new messaging app called Allo.
Google said it would open Allo to developers so that they could produce interactive, “conversational” apps that run on the service. The move echoes Facebook’s release last month of so-called chatbots to run on its Messenger service.
The new products and services put artificial intelligence at the centre of Google’s efforts, with Mr Pichai outlining an optimistic vision of machine intelligence solving hard problems in fields such as healthcare. Key to several of the planned services, including Home and Allo, is a new “smart” assistant that runs in the background and is designed to make Google’s products more responsive and intelligent.
The internet company also flexed its muscles with Android, the mobile software which is used in about 80 per cent of all smartphones.
The software is being used as the platform for VR headsets due out later this year, a move that could be attractive to developers already used to producing apps for the software and give Google an advantage over companies that are further ahead in VR, such as Facebook.