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Google holds its I/O conference at the Shoreline Amphitheater in Mountain View, CA.

James Martin/CNET

It’s time again for Google’s biggest event of the year.

Every spring, the search giant invites thousands of developers to its hometown of Mountain View, California, to make the company’s most high-profile announcements.

In years past, Google has unveiled Glass, its ultimately-doomed smart eyewear; Google Cardboard, a do-it-yourself headset that became the launching point for the company’s virtual reality efforts; and the Google Assistant, its digital helper software akin to Amazon’s Alexa. Last year, Google simultaneously wowed and creeped out the world with the first demo of Duplex, artificial intelligence software that sounds jaw-droppingly human.

For CEO Sundar Pichai, the keynote is his most important speech of the year, like a State of the Union address for one of the world’s most powerful companies.

This year, Google’s annual confab follows a particularly rocky period for the company. Since last year’s gathering, Google’s workers have protested the company’s military contracts, its work in China and the company’s handling of sexual assault allegationsdirected at executives. Pichai has also been dragged in front of Congress to defend Google over accusation of political bias.

On stage, however, Google will likely keep the focus on lighter fare — new features and products. Here’s what we could expect from I/O.

When and where is it?

Google’s annual developer festival kicks off May 7 and runs through May 9. It’s being held in the search giant’s backyard at the Shoreline Amphitheater. The giant concert venue is so close to Google’s global headquarters in Mountain View, California, you can see it from CEO Sundar Pichai’s office.

How do I watch it?

The event’s main keynote, which Pichai typically headlines, will start at 10 a.m. on May 7. It’s usually livestreamed on YouTube and we’ll post the link when it’s live. We’ll also have our own live coverage and a team on the ground to bring you real-time updates.

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Google CEO Sundar Pichai typically kicks off I/O with a keynote address.

James Martin/CNET

Android Q

Over the last few years, Google has released its newest flavor of Android to software developers in March. But the company often reserves a portion of stage time for its mobile operating system. This year’s Android Q will support foldable screens, faster app launches and privacy updates, such as more restrictions on location sharing.

Google Assistant

Google typically uses I/O to introduce new features for the Assistant. Last year, that included new Assistant voices (including John Legend’s), a feature that requires kids to say “please” when bossing the Assistant around and the ability to ask two questions at one time.

But what really stole the show was Duplex, artificial intelligence technology that speaks like a human. It draws out some words and pauses after other words, like normal people do. It says “uh” and “um” and has other verbal tics. The idea is to let the software make calls on your behalf to set up appointments, like restaurant reservations. From the moment it was announced, the product drew controversy over its ability to deceive people who might not know they could be talking to a robot. Google later said they’d build those disclosures into the product.

This year, it’s reasonable to expect more updates to the Assistant as Google tries to push the service to more people and devices.

Augmented and virtual reality

Three years ago, Google introduced its Daydream virtual reality platform at I/O. It lets people turn their phones into VR machines by putting them into special headsets. Recently, Google has been quiet about its Daydream and VR efforts.

But the company has made noise around augmented reality — overlaying digital images on top of what you’d normally see in the real world. For example, Google introduced a technology called Lens at I/O two years ago. It’s a tool that lets you search for information on stuff through your phone’s camera. For example, you could see digital directional arrows on your phone’s screen when you’re in Google Maps’ navigation mode. Or you could see review information about a restaurant when you point your camera at a store front.

It wouldn’t be a surprise if Google offered more insight into its vision for AR or VR.

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Google Lens lets you search for stuff with your phone’s camera.

Josh Miller/CNET

Nest Hub Max

Last month, Google appeared to accidentally leak its own product: The company’s store website made mention of the Nest Home Hub, with a “10-inch HD screen and stereo speakers.” The device will also reportedly have a built-in Nest Cam.

In the past few years, Google has typically reserved many of its hardware announces for its annual “Made by Google” event. (That would also include Nest, which Google absorbed last year.) But a big hardware reveal at I/O wouldn’t be out of the ordinary. The company unveiled the original Google Home smart speaker at the conference three years ago.

Pixel 3a

Rumors have swirled about a midrange version of Google’s flagship phone, reportedly called the Pixel 3a. In another apparent Google online store slipup, the company touted a “Pixel 3a — NEW” in the phones section of the website, before scrubbing away the mention.

To feed the speculation even more: Earlier this week, the Google store website teased“something big coming to the Pixel universe” on May 7, the same day as the Google I/O keynote.

Google Stadia

Last month, Google took the wraps off of Stadia, a new cloud-based gaming platform. The idea is to stream video games directly from Google’s data centers, instead of a console. The platform also has tie-ins to YouTube and will let people share playable snippets of games by sending links.

There are still several unknowns. We don’t know yet if Stadia will have a subscription model or how much it might cost. We also don’t know much about what kind of gaming catalog it will have. When the search giant announced Stadia at the Game Developers Conference in March, the company said it would give more details “in the summer,” presumably at the E3 gaming conference in Los Angeles. But it’s possible Google could tease us with more about Stadia at I/O, too.

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