Google Announces Assistant, Pixel, Home and More at Oct. 4 Event

Google hosted a press event at 9:00 a.m. October 4th in San Francisco to announce its new hardware and software products.

Sundar Pichai, Google’s CEO, introduced the conference. 

“Computing has always had big shifts every ten years or so,” he said, beginning to describe PC, Web and Mobile “revolutions” through the years.

Pichai said the world is evolving from a mobile world to an AI world, giving way to seamless user interactions with intelligent AIs.

“We’ve been working for a long time for this shift,” Pichai said.

Google Assistant

Google’s Assistant, Pichai said, will be universal, available when users need it, and will build “a personal Google” for everyone.

Privacy-wise, all Google mentions is that “everything you share is safe and secure.”

Google’s AI is being outfitted with Google’s knowledge graph, natural language processing, translation, voice recognition and image recognition. Google Assistant is using the company’s new “deep learning” programming, making the AI more user-friendly.

Since 2014, machine learning jumped from 89.6% to 93.9%. This means AIs will be able to be better assistants, Pichai said. They can find photos more accurately (using colors in addition to shapes), translate languages more realistically using “neural machine translation,” and listen and respond to text to speech more naturally.

Assistant actually made its debut with Google Allo, which gave Google an insight into how the Assistant will be used and allowed the AI to learn.

October 4th, Assistant will be rolling out to new platforms like the Pixel phone.

Google Assistant will also allow developers to create their own actions for Google Assistant.

Google Pixel and Pixel XL

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Google’s Pixel, previously seen only through vague leaks, has been posted for sale early. (Carphone Warehouse)

Rick Osterloh, SVP of Hardware for Google, says “technology needs to be smart and just work for you.”

AI will be at the center of hardware and software, Osterloh said, and will allow Google to harness their years of expertise in machine learning and AI for Google Assistant.

Phones are the most important things we own, according to Osterloh. Google’s Pixel phone represents the best of hardware and software by Google, he said. The company designed everything from the user interface to the outer shell.

Pixel phones come with Android Nougat, and allow automatic updates to install when you restart you phone, nixing the update bar. The phone will be able to give a user up to 7 hours of battery life after just 15 minutes of charging. Google’s new 24/7 customer care interface will also roll out with Pixel phones, and now allows screen shares. Pixel will come in a 5-inch display, and there will also be a 5.5-inch Pixel XL. The phones will ship in white, black and blue.

The Pixel starts at $649 or $27/month and is available for pre-order October 4th.

Google’s executives followed up with a few key points about the Pixel:

1. Pixel is the first phone with the Google Assistant built in.

Brian Rakowski, Google’s VP of Product Management, introduced the Pixel’s user interface demo, where the Pixel launcher can be seen firsthand. The Google Assistant takes its place at the top of the screen, and icons are now rounded. Taking a cue from Apple, Google’s Assistant can be accessed by voice or by holding the home button.

The Assistant will be more intuitive and user friendly than Google Now. When Rakowski asks Google Assistant to play him a Lumineers song, the app doesn’t just open Google Music (as Google Now does), but opens YouTube because that’s the app Rakowski uses to listen to music the most often.

Google’s assistant, according to Rakowski’s demo, can gather information in context via your phone’s apps and data. When Rakowski looked up a restaurant in Maps without the Assistant, he could swipe up from the Home button and simply ask “how far it is from the concert?” and get an accurate answer.

2. Google’s “photography experience.”

Google received a score of 89 from DXO Mark, which rates a wide range of quality cameras (including the iPhone 7). This score is the highest any mobile phone has ever gotten. The camera can use “smart burst” to capture a burst of photos quickly, uses HDR+ for top notch image quality, it works well in low light by using multiple short exposures rather than one long exposure, it captures and processes photos extremely quickly, and it invokes video stabilization to minimize shaky cam.

3. Google’s cloud services.

Google Photos helps you store, organize and share your photos via the cloud. Pixel owners will receive free, unlimited storage for photo and video at full quality — even the 4K videos you can take with the Pixel.

4. Allowing people to talk more easily no matter what devices they use.

Sabrina Ellis, Director of Product Management for Google, introduced Google Duo, which allows users to video chat whether they’re using Android or iOS. The video chat app includes a “knock, knock” feature that allows users to see a video stream of the person calling before they answer the call.

5. Pixel is made for virtual reality.

The new Pixel phone is Daydream VR-ready, according to Ellis, and can take advantage of all Google’s Daydream VR has to offer (including a new Daydream headset).

Google Daydream VR

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Google’s Daydream VR now has an official headset and remote. Google has also started joining forces with companies like Netflix, YouTube and Hulu to bring 360-degree VR to users. (Google)

Clay Bavor, VP of Virtual Reality at Google, introduced Daydream View: a Google Daydream-ready VR headset. Google wanted to make the headset customizable, easy to use, and comfortable, said Bavor. The headset is crafted with fabric and soft microfiber, and Google worked with clothing designers to make the headset as comfortable as possible. It’s also lightweight, at 30% lighter than other headsets, according to Bavor.

The VR headset also includes a controller that responds to how you move. Users can point, aim or even draw with the remote. The headset comes in slate, snow and crimson, and can be used with any compatible phone.

Adrienne McCallister, Google’s Director of VR/AR Business Development, introduced Daydream VR and announced that the company will be bringing an exclusive Virtual Reality Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find them experience to Daydream. The user becomes a wizard, and the controller transforms into a wand.

McCallister is also working on educational uses for Daydream, and the company has been working with Star Chart to allow users to learn more about space.

Google has also been working with Netlix and Hulu to make video more accessible to VR headsets, and users can tour the world in VR using Maps. YouTube will also connect to Daydream, where 360-degree video will make VR more real than ever. There are hundreds of thousands of VR-ready videos on YouTube, according to McCallister.

Google WiFi

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Google’s WiFi router will allow users to enjoy ultimate control over devices using their network, while Network Assist makes sure their signal remains strong and broadcasts through their entire home. (Google)

Mario Queiroz, Google’s VP of Product Management, Announced Google WiFi: a modular, easy to use WiFI router from Google. Google’s Network Assist actively manages and optimizes users’ networks and keeps signal strong throughout their homes. Google WiFi will also have a companion app, allowing users to manage family members’ WiFi access and router settings. The router will be available for pre-order in November, and starts at $129 or three for $299.

Google Chromecast Ultra

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Google’s new Chromecast Ultra is the 3rd Generation of Chromecasts. The device supports 4K video and HDR, and will be available in November for $69. (Google)

Chromecast now has 4K resolution, HDR and Dolby Vision support with the new Chromecast Ultra, said Queiroz. Google Play movies will also be rolling out 4K content in November. The third-gen Chromecast Ultra is 1.8x faster than previous generations, and will be available starting at $69 in November, said Queiroz.

Google Home

Google Home’s design was inspired by users’ homes, and includes LEDs to let users know when the speaker hears you. The top is also a touch screen, allowing users to manually trigger the Asisstant. Queiroz says the speaker includes top notch voice recognition, and can tell the difference between “noise” and “voice.”

Google Home’s base can also be swapped out to customize the speaker.

Google home helps users enjoy their music seamlessly, said Rishi Chandra, Google’s VP of Product Management.

“You’re going to love the sound quality in your home,” Chandra said of the Google Home speaker. The speaker supports multiple music apps, like Spotify, Pandora, iHeartRadio and more. It can even learn a user’s favorite music app, and doesn’t need the exact name of the song.

“Play that Shakira song from Zootopia,” Shandra said, as Shakira’s “Try Everything” started playing in the background.

Google has partnered with several other smart home devices, and hopes to allow users to control as many aspects of their home via voice control as possible, Queiroz said. Netflix will soon support “vice casting” via Google Home, and all Chromecast and Chromecast Audio units are compatible with Google Home.

The devices also support “multi-room audio,” Queiroz says, and Google’s Assistant is content-aware, allowing only the nearest speaker to respond to voice commands.

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Mario Queiroz announces Google Home during Google I/O. The home assistant will officially be joining Google’s product lineup after their October 4th press event. (Getty)

Google Home will be available for $129, and there will be a free 6-month trial of YouTube Red included. The speakers are available for pre-order October 4th and will ship on November 4th. The swap-able bases will be available in Mango, Marine, Violet, Carbon, Snow and Copper.

“This is only the beginning,” Osterloh said as he bade goodbye to those watching via live-stream.

Google Home up Against Amazon Echo

Google's October 4th event gave way to many announcements from the tech giant, not the least of which was Google Home.

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