Google unveils new products at annual developers conference in Mountain View

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. -- Google is announcing a lot of bells and whistles Wednesday - but a good chunk of them are already being done by rivals such as Amazon, Apple, and Facebook.

It's a common theme these days, as tech giants and even their plucky startup rivals are copying each other's tools and features, sometimes improving on them and sometimes barely catching up.

Google, for example, added features to its internet-connected Home speaker - such as hands-free calling. That echoes Amazon's Echo speaker.

Google also unveiled Lens, which lets people point their camera at things to find out more information about them. Samsung is trying to some of that with its new Bixby Vision feature on the Galaxy S8 phones.

Though not a competitor, Google's slimmed-down phone operating system aimed at cheap Android phones is reminiscent of Facebook's own "skinny" version, called Facebook Lite. Both are aimed at getting more people to use the company's services, even if they live in developing countries and use cheap, older phones.

Google is developing a stand-alone virtual-reality headset - one that doesn't need a companion phone or personal computer.

Google says that it'll be able to optimize all components that way.

It's also bringing positional tracking, which recognizes movement as people walk around. That's typically limited to high-end systems such as the Oculus Rift from Facebook. Lower-end systems such as Google Cardboard and Samsung's Gear VR can detect head orientation but aren't designed for full movement.

HTC and Lenovo will make the first stand-alone VR headsets using Google's system.

The devices won't be out until later in the year. Prices haven't been announced.

Google is making the announcement in California on Wednesday at its annual conference for app developers.

Google wants to bring Android to more people around the world. It has launched a program for cheaper, entry-level devices.

Android Go is basically a "skinny" version of Android "O," the next operating system from Google.

Android powers more than 80 percent of the world's smartphones, but only a portion of them have the fastest processors and a high amount of memory.

Android Go is meant to work on phones used by many people in emerging countries, for example. It's a way for Google to help make Android-based smartphones even more ubiquitous around the world.

It includes rebuilt Google apps and a redesigned Play store for devices with less than 1 gigabyte of memory. These devices will automatically get Android Go instead of the full version.

Going forward, Google says every Android release will have a Go version.

The next version of Google's Android operating system wants to make using your phone easier, faster and more secure.

Google provided a peek at the software's upcoming features Wednesday during its annual conference for computer programmers. So-called "wise" limits will gauge and control how much battery life your apps are using. A feature called Google Play Protect, meanwhile, will scan all your apps for malicious software.

A "beta" test version is available on Wednesday.

The operating system won't be released to the mass market until later this year. By then, Google will name the system after a dessert or sweet-tasting snack beginning with the letter "O'' as part of a years-old tradition.

Android powers more than 80 percent of the world's smartphones, but it often takes years for a new version of the software to make it on older models.

ABC7 News reporter Jonathan Bloom is live tweeting from inside the event:

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