During my second and third days at Google I/O 2018, I learned quite a few things: the future of the web is immersive; design should include everybody no matter the medium; and great products come from designing with your users. Technology is advancing really fast, and Google is trying to make it easy for everyone to participate. On day two, I focused on sessions related to AR/VR and web performance. On day three, my goal was to learn more about web accessibility, more performance, and the future of the web.

Some notes on Augmented and Virtual Reality

Let’s start with what I learned about Augmented (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR). AR can be useful and fun—it’s not just for gaming. There are so many use cases for why AR/VR will be the future of the web, education and the sharing of knowledge top among them. It levels the playing field and creates a more immersive and intuitive way to learn new information because, as Benjamin Schrom tells us, it turns “abstract representations into concrete experiences.” In other words, we learn better by doing and experiencing the world around us. It will be fascinating to see how we use this type of learning experience in the future for everyday knowledge transfers.

Question is, how do you think your Help Center experience will adapt to this new technology?

Hanging out at Google I/O 2018, day 2

There are 1.3 billion people with disabilities in the world. With today’s technologies, the only barriers to those with disabilities are the choices we make in how we share our content with them. Like Haben Girma, the first Deaf-blind person to graduate from Harvard Law School, says, “society creates barriers, not disabilities.” Accessibility doesn’t always apply to people with disabilities either. Sometimes, accessibility is required because of the environment we are in.

We learn better by doing and experiencing the world around us.

For example, if you are in a loud area you may not be able to hear a video playing, but you can still follow what’s happening because of the text captioning on it. Or if you are in an area with a really bad connection, you are more likely to read that article that loads quickly than the one that doesn’t. Accessibility applies to everyone at some point in their lives.

To learn more about accessibility and how easy it can be to implement, please visit The A11Y Project.

An example of augmented reality from Google I/O 2018

Web performance and accessibility are more connected than most people think. When you account for accessibility you are making your content easily accessed and understandable to as many people as possible. By following accessibility best practices, you also make it easier for search engines to crawl, index, and serve up the pages that are relevant to your users. This can speed up the delivery of your page and improve its SEO.

Speaking of web performance, Google has provided a multitude of tools to help you improve your site’s performance. There were multiple sessions around techniques and tools for you to optimize your sites. The most popular among performance, accessibility, and SEO is Lighthouse. The tool can run as an extension, Dev Tools audit panel, NPM module, and on webpagetest. It lets you test for many facets of optimal web performance such as SEO, Accessibility, Progressive Web Apps (PWA), Performance, and Best Practices. If you would like more information around all the tools Google has to offer for web performance, please visit g.co/dev/SpeedToolsOverview.

An infographic of the different Google performance tools

Making JavaScript and AMP search friendly

I also attended sessions geared around creating search friendly content for websites powered by JavaScript and AMP. One of the big problems with JavaScript-powered sites is that dynamic content isn’t loaded and indexed by the Googlebot (web crawler). Google wanted to fix that problem so they created the ability to dynamically render content as server-side (for search engines) and client-side (for faster user-viewed pages). Now that dynamic content can be index correctly without hurting the user experience.

AMP technology has rules in place that keeps sites search engine friendly and fast. You can now also embed AMP like you would an iframe inside a PWA on normal HTML sites using ShadowDOM. These embedded AMP widgets can avoid cross-domain issues by talking with their host page to pass information back and forth. AMP Zero-Click helps with performance by prefetching pages that users are most likely to click so they load instantly and AMP for email lets companies have web app behaviors like search results and saves inside email clients. All of these new features were created with the goal of having AMP be the foundation blocks you use to create fast and easy to use experiences.

A trend I noticed during several sessions was the availability of Google apps, tools, and analytics on iOS as a matter of principle. This is a lot like when Google focused on mobile and the majority of their demos were shown on mobile devices. Google’s reasoning behind this new trend is accessibility. Make everything available to everybody. The goal is to delight users by exceeding their expectations, another trend mentioned many times as well. Jen Fitzpatrick put it best when she said during the keynote on day one: “Build products for everyone and products that matter.”

The AI and Machine Learning revolution

Over and over again, sessions demonstrated that AI and Machine Learning are causing a revolution. On day one we saw Google Assistant, which is powered by Google Duplex, book an appointment and while doing so pass the Turing test. On day three, John Hennessy explained how this shift is triggering a change in how we create processors to power the computation of these technologies. It’s not just computers that will be advancing though.

Photo of PH Model of Evolution

I sat in on a session where I saw David Eagleman demonstrate V.E.S.T. (Variable Extra Sensory Transducer). This device is a haptic vest that substitutes different sensory inputs (sight, hearing, etc.) as touch. David describes his P.H. Model of Evolution by stating that our senses are really just Mother Nature’s peripheral devices. The brain is processing inputs and interpreting them. So, no matter what type of input the brain receives, it will take that information, assign patterns to it, and then give meaning to them. “Disability is an opportunity for innovation,” says Haben Girma. And the innovation in our near future is staggering.

I am excited to bring these ideas back to MindTouch to see how we can make sharing knowledge easier, faster, and accessible to everyone.

PS Be sure to read my recap of Google I/O 2018 Day 1!