Google wants to follow you everywhere, from your car to your living room


 David Singleton, director of engineering at Google, speaks Wednesday during the Google I/O Developers Conference in San Francisco. (Stephen Lam/Getty Images)

Google, already the world's leading search engine, wants a place in the rest of your life, too.

At Google's annual developers conference on Wednesday, company executives demonstrated how Google's Android operating system can work in cars, on televisions and on wearable devices -- ensuring that consumers are never more than few moments away from Google.

Larry Page, Google's chief executive, did not appear at this year's keynote, leaving most of the hosting duty to Sundar Pichai, who runs the firm's Android and Chrome teams. But Google was clear about its ambitions to take Android beyond the smartphone and the tablet.

Wearable technology was a main focus of the event, and Google gave a few more details about its software for smartwatches, called Android Wear. The firm also said that it is working on a project called "Google Fit" that will aggregate data from fitness apps and wearable devices to help users keep track of health data.

Samsung and LG announced at the conference that they are both releasing new wearable devices -- the Samsung Gear Live and the LG G Watch --  that consumers can pre-order from Google's Play store starting Tuesday afternoon. Motorola will be releasing its own smartwatch later this year, the company said.  Using these devices, you'll be able to do things such as call a Lyft car straight from your wrist simply by saying, "Okay, Google. Call me a car."

Google has a plan for your own car, too. Its new AndroidAuto system connects your smartphone to your car dashboard, includes an button in the steering wheel that connects you to Google Maps and allows you to dictate text messages. Google also said that other messaging apps will be able to take advantage of the voice features.

The firm also announced that it's making another push to capture the living room with Android TV. This latest effort comes after two failed attempts to gain a share on the television market -- Google TV and the short-live Nexus Q media player.

Android TV piggybacks on the modest success Google saw with its Chromecast streaming accessory. Android TV will launch in partnership with Sony, Sharp and other notable television manufacturers this year and lets users stream content from their Android smartphones. It will work with existing hardware and set-top boxes, though Google has a box of its own just for developers. The company emphasized gaming during the announcement, showing off how easily mobile games can translate to the biggest screen in the house.

Google also provided a higher-level look at what's to come for the next major build of the Android operating system.

Executives referred to the new version of  Android as simply "L" --  meaning that Google has either abandoned its tradition for naming systems after sweets or is just playing coy until it goes to a full release. The system has a new look and feel and uses shadows to lend a sense of depth to the user interface. The change adds some sense of realism to the system, though it doesn't go quite as far down the realism path as Apple's old leather-stitching and green-felt layouts.

In terms of features, Google said that it's updating Android to improve graphics performance and battery life, and is also working to more closely integrate Android with Chrome OS -- the operating system that runs on Google's Chromebook laptops. The company  showed off some small but useful changes to the system, such as the ability to interact more deeply with the notifications center. Users can now double-tap a notification, for example, to launch an app. The company also said that it will allow users to set different options for unlocking their devices. On stage, executives showed, for example, that a phone will let you bypass the lockscreen if it recognizes your smartwatch is nearby. Without the watch, the phone requires the traditional passcode.

Overall, the event was a little more low-key than in years past, with no major hardware announcements. Google did share some interesting statistics, including that it has a 62 percent marketshare in the tablet market.

Pichai also announced a plan to get more users around the world onto smartphones. A new initiative called "AndroidOne" aims to provide what Pichai called a "turnkey" system to help amp up Android smartphone adoption in developing markets. Google will work with manufacturers to provide hardware and software advice to make and distribute devices quickly in places where not many users have smartphones. The company is launching this program first in India, Pichai said.

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Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.
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