Christian Heilmann

⚡️Google I/O 2011 – impressions and reflections

Friday, May 13th, 2011 at 9:19 pm

I just got back to my hotel after the merriments that were the Google I/O after party in the Thirsty Bear Brewery and thought it is time for some reflection on the event.

Google IO 2011

Overall impression

Google IO was a very good conference, I heard a lot of interesting news, met people I hadn’t seen in quite a while and got to know a lot of others. It is a huge event and there was no lack of things to keep you occupied. Showcase booths of software but also an amazing amount or Robots and other hardware demos, vehicles to play with and lots of breakout space made it a great place to learn, look and talk to each other and people in Google. The HR presence was very subtle and there was no brutal hiring drive you get at other events of this nature.

Catering was good, there was always coffee and drinks but the queues at lunch were very long indeed and I skipped a few meals to spend more time with folk instead.

The main stage visuals were top-notch and the quality of the A/V equipment amazing. Talks were recorded, streamed and transcribed live. Great stuff.

The wireless, on the other hand, was abysmal. This is partly the fault of the attendees who set up their own hotspots (despite the badge telling you explicitly not to do so) and thus saturating the wireless range. That there was no dedicated speaker lounge or network was an oversight I’d love to see rectified. I do enjoy tweeting and blogging about an event but couldn’t do so.

The party on the first day had real time animations synced to the music by Sexyvisuals, lots of drinks and a truckload of cool things to look at. Hardware hacks, futuristic vehicles and a photobooth all kept people busy.

The band was Jane’s Addiction and I can safely say they were totally out of place. Perry Farrell proved once again to be a d*ck by abusing Google and the audience on stage. All in all they just did not fit. This is a geek event. Why not get a geek band? This was money wasted.

Overall the organisation was spot-on. You knew where to go, what is happening and there was not much congestion although the amount of attendees simply makes that happen. There was a glitch with my name tag showing me as a Google speaker and not external and thus not allowing me to get free stuff but it was remedied quickly enough.

Swag, swag and some more swag

Talking of free stuff – people attending IO left laden with goodies. Originally I had hoped for Google to hand out new phones (as my Nexus One suffers from the known Off Button Failure) but going away with 3 T-Shirts, a mobile hotspot for the US (which saves me right now as the GBP 7.50 per MB of roaming is not fun), a Samsung Android tablet and the option to get my Chromebook as soon as they are out I really can’t complain. That doesn’t mean I didn’t hear people complaining! In addition to these “free for all” bits you also got extras for attending some special talks like an Experia phone at the gaming talk and a new Nexus S at the talk about Native Client. As I missed both this was not for me though. Drat.

A bumpy start

The conference started bad for me. I was asked to give a talk about HTML5 video and captioning/subtitling and was very chuffed about speaking at the great big Google event. It was tough for me to say no to two other conferences that had me listed as a speaker, and I still feel sorry about breaking my promise there. The blow came then when I arrived – as my talk got cancelled. So I was just to sit back, relax and enjoy the show instead of being a actor or part of the chorus line.

The talks I attended

I spent most of my time in the Chrome channel, so here is what I’ve seen with a quick one-liner about it. Most of these will be available as videos and the slides should be out somewhere, too.

  • WebGL Techniques and Performance – some great tips on making WebGL snappy – included fish, so it has to be native
  • Chrome Web Store Publisher Forum – this sounded interesting but was not for me. If you want to publish something on the store and make money, there were some good tips though.
  • Super Browser 2 Turbo HD Remix: Introduction to HTML5 Game Development – some great tips on how to build games.
  • HTML5 Today with Google Chrome Frame – a good introduction on how to rid the web of the scourge of old IE - now also available for people who are not admin on their windows machine.
  • Web Fonts are changing the Web. Learn why. – showcase of Google web fonts and the tools to easily use them. Some cool new features there. I thought the demo of creating a logo with a font was pointless though – why would I ever have to highlight and paste a logo?
  • HTML5 Showcase for Web Developers: The Wow and the How – amazingly cool HTML5 showcase demo! I loved how they built on some of the things in Web O’Wonder and explained the File APIs instead of just going “oh look, 3D!”
  • Mobile Web Development: From Zero to Hero – the UK Google boys showed some good tricks how to use HTML5 on handhelds
  • HTML5 & What’s Next – a glimpse into the next steps of making the browser a real app platform. Surprisingly a lot of CSS talk there (mixins, variables…) but also some very cool client side MVC ideas
  • Creating Accessible Interactive Web Apps using HTML5 – well intentioned talk with great presentation but awful content. I will write a lot more about this one soon.
  • Ignite I/O – always a great format and very cool talks this time.

Announcements I enjoyed

Over all IO had some amazingly cool announcements. Many got the Americans excited (movie streaming on Android and Google Music) but failed to make me happy as they are only available here. Others, however, got me very happy:

  • Chrome store going international has been a promise that took far too long to fulfil
  • Google entering the open hardware arena with an own Arduino project that works with Android. Some very cool demos were shown about that and it is great for hackdays.
  • Android getting spatial detection for cameras to allow for real 3D interfaces using the user’s field of vision
  • Chrome frame for non-admin users means a lot more people can say good-bye to IE6
  • Google fonts API getting extended to allow for faster web fonts
  • The new interactive WebGL song/movie 3 Dreams of Black pushing the envelope much cleaner and further than Wilderness Downtown (strange though that it is http://ro.me and not http://ch.ro.me)
  • Angry Birds for the web – I am so tempted to write a trainer menu now :)
  • Chromebooks coming out which are the grown up version of the CR48 pilot. I am not that excited for mom and dad end users but I see them as a great opportunity to get rid of old and outdated infrastructures in companies. Of course we need to get Office onto them somehow.
  • A lot of cool file API and sound APIs for Chrome which hopefully should be coming in other browsers, too.
  • Chromebooks coming with a built-in screen reader – you hear that Microsoft? Go ship NVDA with Windows!

Things I want to happen now

Well, for starters I can’t wait to get my hands on the Chrome book. I will also hunt down the HTML5 demos shown to get them fixed for other browsers and added to Mozilla Demo Lab and I will have a few talks with YouTube about captioning videos. And of course to have a good follow-up with all the people I met.

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