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Google I/O 2022 Urges Developers to Focus on the ‘Real World’

13 May 2022 6:32am, by
This Week in Development

Google’s annual developer conference, Google I/O, was held this week and one of the themes was developing for the “real world.” Google CEO Sundar Pichai used the phrase four times in less than a minute in his opening keynote (with a “real lives” thrown in) while discussing Google’s emerging Augmented Reality (AR) capabilities. He talked about giving Google users “the ability to spend time focusing on what matters in the real world, in our real lives.”

The implication for developers? That you should build applications and functionality that people use in their daily lives — on computers, mobile phones, and — if one promotional video in the keynote is to be believed — potentially a pair of HUD (micro-heads-up display) smart glasses.

Google CEO Sundar Pichai

Google CEO Sundar Pichai talking about a prototype HUD smartglasses product.

The virtual world hardly got a mention in the keynote, other than a couple of minor features added to Google Meet, its meeting app. As for Virtual Reality (VR), apparently it doesn’t exist at Google.

The developer keynote continued to subtly push the theme of developing for the real world. The first product mentioned in the keynote by host Jeanine Banks, Head of Developer Relations at Google, was the ARCore Geospatial API. “At no cost, developers can easily create immersive experiences by placing AR content at real world locations in 87 countries,” Banks said.

Even Google’s web platform representative at I/O, Ben Galbraith, used the phrase “real world,” this time in relation to the Core Web Vitals performance program that Google’s browser team has been pushing for several years now. “Because the speedometer measures real-world web performance,” said Galbraith, regarding the tool that measures the speed of a website, “these improvements translate into faster experiences for you and your users.”

Ben Galbraith

Ben Galbraith and an impressive list of web capabilities.

Galbraith also mentioned the recent Lego Spike web application that uses advanced (Chrome-only) APIs to bring interactive functionality to Lego. The APIs are for bluetooth and USB connectivity, so once again it’s an example of connecting an object in the real world — in this case, a Lego toy — with the internet.

Another highlight from the developer keynote was an update from Google’s Machine Learning (ML) division. “We believe 2022 is the year ML becomes part of every developer’s toolkit,” said Google’s core ML head, Alex Spinelli. “We’ve made sure that anywhere you can execute code, you can execute ML,” he added a bit later. For deployment of ML models, he pointed to TensorFlow Extended (TFX), which he said “lets you implement full pipelines quickly and easily; and of course if you want a managed solution for this, Vertex AI can cover you end to end.”

In an earlier session, Karolina Netolicka from Google Cloud introduced AlloyDB for PostgresSQL, “a new powerful relational database from Google Cloud that’s fully PostgreSQL-compatible.” It also, she noted, has “built-in ML.”

Karolina Netolicka

Karolina Netolicka from Google Cloud introducing AlloyDB for PostgresSQL.

This Week in Development

Google’s Web Capabilities Showcase

In a separate and entertaining 30-minute session, Google’s Una Kravets and Jake Archibald explained “what’s new for the web platform.” In previous years, this session has shown off the latest features in Chrome — many of which weren’t available in Apple’s Safari or Mozilla’s Firefox at the time. But this year, Kravets and Archibald tried to highlight features that had cross-browser compatibility (although there were still a number of Chrome-only features mentioned).

Kravets talked about a CSS feature called “containment,” now supported by all browsers, which “lets developers tell the browser how to render the content on the screen and isolate a DOM subtree,” thus enabling the browser “to defer rendering of size, panes, and layout for speed and efficiency.”

Una Kravets

Una Kravets talking cross-browser interoperability.

Later, Archibald highlighted cascade layers, a CSS feature that is brand new this year — and fully supported in the industry. “Engineers and standards folks across browsers worked together to launch this feature around the same time,” he noted.

Jake Archibald

Jake Archibald discussing cascade layers, a new cross-browser feature.

New SlashData Report: Python and Rust On the Move

Analyst firm SlashData has released the 22nd edition of its developer industry report (you can fill in a form to download it here). No surprises that JavaScript remains the most popular programming language, with nearly 17.5M developers worldwide using it. However second-place Python continues to close the gap, with 15.7M users now. “The rise of data science and machine learning (ML) is a clear factor in Python’s growing popularity,” notes SlashData, with about 70% of ML developers and data scientists reportedly using Python.

Another big mover (albeit on a lesser scale) was Rust, which has “nearly tripled in size in the past 24 months, from just 0.6M developers in Q1 2020 to 2.2M in Q1 2022.” The report states that Rust is “mostly used in IoT software projects but also in AR/VR development, most commonly for implementing the low-level core logic of AR/VR applications.”

SlashData

Source: SlashData

Another interesting set of statistics in the report is about low-code tools. 46% of professional developers polled “use low-code/no-code (LCNC) tools for some portion of their development work,” says SlashData. Although experienced developers, particularly those with more than ten years of experience, are the least likely to use these tools.

Tough Week for Web3

The Web3, aka crypto, crowd has had a tough week, with leading cryptocurrencies and NFTs alike tumbling in value. According to a Techmeme headline on Thursday, “Bitcoin dropped below $26,000 for the first time since December 2020, down 15% in 24 hours; Ether dropped as low as $1,720, its lowest level since July 2021.” Of course, the rest of us in the economy are suffering too, with stock markets continuing their bearish run this year while inflation goes up. But for Web3 startups, crypto valuations have a much bigger impact at the development level — because the products being built have financialization at their core.

Molly White from the ironically-named website Web3 Is Going Just Great put it well in an interview with Harvard Business Review. “These technologies [Web3] build up financial barriers; they don’t knock them down,” she told HBR. “They seek to introduce a layer of financialization to everything we do that I feel is, in many ways, worse than the existing systems they seek to replace.”

Dev Tweet of the Week

You may be rethinking your Web3 projects right now, but WebAssembly continues to be the golden child of web development.

The New Stack is a wholly owned subsidiary of Insight Partners, an investor in the following companies mentioned in this article: Spike.