Google Stakes Its Future on AI


Made by Google product reveal 4 October 2017

At the Made By Google new product reveal event on Wednesday, the focus was on AI, in almost all the devices that Google unveiled, along with hardware and software designed under one roof.

Google, the #2 brand on Interbrand’s new Best Global Brands report, calls its expanding family of smart products the “best hardware, software and AI—together.”

The Verge commented that Google CEO Sundar Pichai “is intent on pressing Google’s advantage in AI — not just by integrating AI features into every product it makes, but by making products that are themselves inspired by AI, products that wouldn’t be conceivable without it.”

The big announcement at Wednesday’s press event: the second generation of its Pixel smartphone line, the Pixel 2 and the larger Pixel 2 XL. The new Pixel replaces the 3.5mm headphone jack on its smartphones, using instead the bundled 3.5mm USB-C adapter to connect.

The search giant was bullish about feature parity between both handsets, unlike Apple which keeps more advanced camera features for its Plus versions.

The Pixel 2’s cameras now feature a 12.2-megapixel sensor with an f/1.8 aperture and OIS, which paired with Google’s computational photography acumen afford the benefits other models need two lenses to achieve.

An always-on display shows time and notifications along with a music-spotter for what’s playing in the shop up the block. Users can pinch the bezels of the device to activate Google Assistant, surface GPS directions or resume a podcast or song previously playing.

The Google Pixel 2 comes in Kinda Blue, Just Black and Clearly White, while the XL is either Just Black or Black and White. A Google search bar at the bottom of the menu enables search on the phone and the web simultaneously.

Google’s SVP hardware division Rick Osterloh said the new Pixels are leaning hard on AI and software tweaks as key selling points, distinct from other smartphone manufacturers and described them as “radically helpful” in anticipating a user’s needs.

Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL are available for pre-order now, shipping October 19 and November 15, for $649 and $849 respectively.

Also announced:

Pixel Buds – wireless headphones with simultaneous translation if used with a Pixel phone. Similar to Apple’s AirPods, but tethered together with a wire, the price is $199, available soon.

Pixelbook – a slim hybrid tablet/laptop/phone, running Chrome OS and offering Google Assistant on the desktop. The laptop has a touchscreen that folds to convert into a tablet, along with anew pen for drawing on the screen. 1kg in weight and 1cm thick, price starts at $999.

Daydream View – not a new VR headset, but available with new lenses and in three colors. Available now for $99.

Google Home Max – a large smart speaker available in December for USD$399.

Google Home Mini – about the size of a donut and pairs with other wireless smart speakers to spread Google Assistant through the whole house. Pre-orders today, selling for $49, in-store October 19. Both speakers respond to voice commands.

Google Clips – a camera for shooting babies and pets, both stills and video. Always-on, AI picks the right moments to shoot. Available soon for $249.

As Wired noted pre-event, “You’d think having dominated search and email, created Chrome and YouTube, plus a self-driving car project, a handful of save-the-world enterprises, and the greatest advertising business in the history of the universe would be enough to keep Google busy.”

“You certainly wouldn’t think the folks in Mountain View would suddenly feel the urge to get into the smartphone game, a remarkably mature market where nobody but Samsung and Apple makes any money, and where Google’s already ubiquitous thanks to Android.”

“But Google has to try. As we’ve learned time and again, the best products come from companies that make both hardware and software, each working to optimize and improve the other. The winners will be the companies who figure out how to do everything right: hardware, software, marketing, everything. Apple nailed it with phones, and became the richest company in the world. There’s another chance coming.”

Watch the full Google event below: