08 March 2010

Android NDK r3

The third release of the Android Native Development Kit (NDK) is now available for download from the Android developer site.

It can be used to target devices running Android 1.5 and higher. In addition to a few bug fixes and improvements, this release includes the following new features:

Toolchain improvement

The toolchain binaries have been refreshed for this release with GCC 4.4.0, which should generate slightly more compact and efficient machine code than the previous one (4.2.1).

Note that the GCC 4.4.0 C++ frontend is more pedantic, and may refuse to compile certain rare and invalid template declarations that were accepted by 4.2.1. To alleviate the problem, this NDK still provides the 4.2.1 binaries, which can optionally be used to build your machine code.

OpenGL ES 2.0 support

Applications targeting Android 2.0 (API level 5) or higher can now directly access OpenGL ES 2.0 features. This brings the ability to control graphics rendering through vertex and fragment shader programs, using the GLSL shading language.

A new trivial sample, named "hello-gl2", demonstrates how to render a simple triangle using both shader types.

Name simplification

This NDK release is just called "r3", for "Revision 3", to indicate that it is not limited to a specific Android platform/API level. Some developers thought that the previous release's name (1.6_r1) was confusing and indicated that it could only be used to target Android 1.6, which was not true.


05 March 2010

Speech Input API for Android

People love their mobile phones because they can stay in touch wherever they are. That means not just talking, but e-mailing, texting, microblogging, and so on. So, in addition to search by voice and voice shortcuts like "Navigate to", we included a voice-enabled keyboard in Android 2.1, which makes it even easier to stay connected. Now you can dictate your message instead of typing it. Just tap the new microphone button on the keyboard, and you can speak just about anywhere you would normally type.

We believe speech can fundamentally change the mobile experience. We would like to invite every Android application developer to consider integrating speech input capabilities via the Android SDK.
One of my favorite apps in the Market that integrates speech input is Handcent SMS, because you can dictate a reply to any SMS with a quick tap on the SMS popup window.

Speech input integrated into Handcent SMS

The Android SDK makes it easy to integrate speech input directly into your own application—just copy and paste from this sample application to get started. Android is an open platform, so your application can potentially make use of any speech recognition service on the device that's registered to receive a RecognizerIntent. Google's Voice Search application, which is pre-installed on many Android devices, responds to a RecognizerIntent by displaying the "Speak now" dialog and streaming audio to Google's servers—the same servers used when a user taps the microphone button on the search widget or the voice-enabled keyboard. (You can check if Voice Search is installed in Settings ➝ Applications ➝ Manage applications.)

One important tip: for speech input to be as accurate as possible, it's helpful to have an idea of what words are likely to be spoken. While a message like "Mom, I'm writing you this message with my voice!" might be appropriate for an email or SMS message, you're probably more likely to say something like "weather in Mountain View" if you're using Google Search. You can make sure your users have the best experience possible by requesting the appropriate language model: "free_form" for dictation, or "web_search" for shorter, search-like phrases. We developed the "free form" model to improve dictation accuracy for the voice keyboard on the Nexus One, while the "web search" model is used when users want to search by voice.

Google's servers currently support English, Mandarin Chinese, and Japanese. The web search model is available in all three languages, while free-form has primarily been optimized for English. As we work hard to support more models in more languages, and to improve the accuracy of the speech recognition technology we use in our products, Android developers who integrate speech capabilities directly into their applications can reap the benefits as well.

03 March 2010

Android at the Game Developer's Conference

Tuesday, March 9 marks the start of the 2010 Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, and Android will be there! There has been a lot of interest about Android from the game development community, and our presence at GDC is intended to provide developers everything they need to get started with the platform. We are hosting several technical sessions and participating in two industry panels.

We also want to meet you and answer your questions about Android game development, so we've set aside time for "office hours." Android team engineers will be on-hand to answer your questions, and if you have a game in development for Android, we'd love to see a demo.

Below, you can see the technical sessions that we're hosting and industry panels that we're participating in. We look forward to seeing you at GDC2010!

Technical sessions

Tuesday, March 9

Bootstrapping Games on Android
Chris Pruett
Everything you need to know about games on Android in 60 minutes.
1:45 PM - 2:45 PM
Room 309, South Hall

Wednesday, March 10

Bring Your Games to Android
Jack Palevich
An in-depth look at writing and porting C++ games using the NDK and a thin Java shell.
10:30 AM - 11:30 AM
Room 302, South Hall

Get the Most out of Android Media APIs
Dave Sparks & Jason Sams
Tips and tricks for optimizing your sound, video, and graphics for compatibility, efficiency, and battery life.
11:45 AM - 12:45 PM
Room 302, South Hall

Android Office Hours
The Android team
Come meet the team, ask us your questions, and show off your games!
3:00 PM - 4:00 PM
Room 302, South Hall

Industry panels

Wednesday, March 10

GamesBeat2010: A sea of mobile devices
Eric Chu
Industry experts weigh in on the future of mobile game development.
4:30 PM - 5:30 PM
Moscone Convention Center

Thursday, March 11

After the iPhone...what?
Dave Sparks
Audio experts discuss the nitty gritty technical details of alternative gaming platforms.
10:30 AM - 11:30 AM
Room 112, North Hall