The just-concluded Google I/O featured many juicy morsels on display. Here are five of the sweetest things from the company’s smorgasbord:

Accessory Development Kit (ADK)

In one flashing moment of brilliance, Google managed to merge the cool-as-ice hacker electronics world with the ultra-enterprise world of mobile phone accessories.

The Arduino open-source electronic prototyping platform is popular with the sorts of folks you read about in Wired, Make Magazine and Boing Boing: the cutting-edge home-brew technology developers. It’s so popular that there are even a few clothing-embeddable implementations. And Google’s basing its newly announced Accessory Development Kit on the Arduino platform.

At the conference, the hottest toy in the crowd was the ADK, which was handed out to the developers who were lucky enough to get into the right sessions. Others at the conference were given Android phones in exchange for attending talks by Sony Ericsson, but I watched as one developer called out to trade his Sony PSP/Android phone for an ADK. They were like pure gold.

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With the ADK, Google built a massive version of the wood-and-marble game Labyrinth. It’s a popular game on the Android Marketplace, with phone tilts emulating the knobs built into the game board. That was no different for the larger-than-life implementation of this game on display at Google I/O; players stood on a platform above the game and tilted a tablet to control the thing. It was a terrific way to demonstrate the unending stuff people can do with Arduino and Android.

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Robots
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There were rather a lot of robots at Google I/O. From iRobot’s telepresence and retail-focused armature-on-wheels variety, to the little green Androids that balanced Segway-like upon two wheels, robots were all over the conference. While none of those on display are likely to be in your local hardware store anytime soon, they were remarkable to observe and learn about.

The rather futuristic-looking PR2, shown above, is evidently the product of an endless budget, coupled with no concrete demand for marketability. Despite all of this, you may notice that it uses a Microsoft Kinect atop its expensive carapace. The Kinect, you see, has set the robotics world on fire. It’s truly the best spatial recognition and object-detection hardware in existence. And it’s only US$150. Oh, how robotics has changed.

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The iRobot telepresence ladies were my personal favorite. These little three-wheeled robots consisted of basic mobility and object-avoidance hardware, festooned with a simple extending post that could rise or fall upon need. Atop that post was an Android tablet, of course. These girls (their gender indicated by their names) would whiz through the crowd, then extend the tablet up toward a passerby. The “customer” could choose to have his or her picture taken in 3D, which could be retrieved at the booth. These were by far the most engaging and autonomous robots in the conference.

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Go on AppEngine

Go was, quite literally, thought up while waiting for a C++ application to compile. The Google teams that worked on intense network and computational problems were sick of sitting around while GCC and the endless C++ libraries tore through their code, building applications slowly and stifling agility. Thus, Go came to be.

Velocity has always been the big focus of Go, both in terms of developer productivity and in terms of application performance. To that end, the entire tool chain is designed with continuous integration built in. This capability has now been extended into AppEngine.

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About Alex Handy

Alex Handy is the Senior Editor of Software Development Times.