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A Healthy Dose of AI in Google's New Family of Products

05 October 2017
Google's new family of consumer hardware products. Source: Google Inc.

Google has a new family. That is to say, a new family of consumer hardware products, all of which were announced yesterday, Oct. 4, 2017.

These include:

  • Android-based smartphones: the 5-inch Pixel 2 has the “best camera of any smartphone,” according to Google. Ditto for the 6-inch Pixel 2 XL. Both come with unlimited photo and video storage.
  • Google Home Mini and Max: speakers that can be programmed to recognize the voices of a user, and up to five others. The Mini is “about the size of a donut,” while the Max features dual, 4.5-inch high-excursion woofers.
  • Pixelbook: a high-performance Chromebook designed “to combine the best parts of a laptop, a tablet and a smartphone.” Unlike the typical laptop, it runs Google Play apps and also features a 12.3-inch high-resolution touchscreen display. A “smart” Pixelbook Pen that interfaces with the device is also available.
  • Pixel Buds: "smart" wireless headphones and a pocket-sized charging case that provides up to 24 hours of listening time.
  • Daydream View: the “best virtual-reality headset on the market” can be paired with the Pixel 2 or another Daydream-ready phone.
  • Google Clips: a tiny, hands-free camera that can be attached to a stationary object. It uses machine learning to decide when to automatically shoot photo and video and catch “special moments.”

According to the New York Times, the Google announcement came with little time spent on product specifications. The real focus was on artificial intelligence. Company CEO Sundar Pichai referred to Google as an “AI first” company, saying that this was a time for “radically rethinking how computing should work.”

An example of alternative reality to come: AR Stickers allow users to express themselves with 'playful emoji.' Source: Google Inc.An example of alternative reality to come: AR Stickers allow users to express themselves with 'playful emoji.' Source: Google Inc.Along those lines, every hardware product has received an AI makeover — instant language-translation capability for the headphones, room-specific sound adjustment for the Max speaker, an image-recognition app called Lens for the smartphones that provides information about whatever’s surrounding the user. Google Assistant also makes a strong showing throughout the new product line. The intelligent assistant can be accessed by a squeeze on the Pixel phones, thanks to a new feature called Active Edge; it can also be accessed by circling things on the Pixelbook screen with the Pixelbook Pen.

In a press release, Google noted that AI has already been transforming its products, including examples such as Google Maps analyzing your planned destination and offering alternative suggestions for parking if appropriate. More is coming down the pike for the new products as well. Augmented reality stickers will allow users to add animated emojis to messages, for instance. There will also be apps and experiences such as Houzz, that allow you to see how different furniture and accent pieces might fit into your existing space. And Google Assistant will be receiving updates to “routines” that allow a user to accomplish multiple tasks with a single phrase.

Current U.S. pricing on the new family of products is as follows:

  • Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL: $649 and up. Now available for pre-order.
  • Google Home Mini: $49. Now available for pre-order; available in stores starting Oct. 19.
  • Google Home Max: $399. Available for pre-order starting Nov. 13.
  • Pixelbook: $999 and up. The Pixelbook Pen is an additional $99. Now available for pre-order.
  • Pixel Buds: $159. Now available for pre-order; available in stores starting in November.
  • Daydream View: $99. Now available for pre-order.
  • Google Clips: $249. Coming soon.

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