Google’s Pixel 2 Event at the San Francisco Jazz Center on Wednesday was everything that one expects from such product launches, and perhaps more, with a couple of new products that promise to change the world, so to speak.
The live-streamed event kicked-off with Google CEO Sundar Pichai taking the stage with three giant screens behind him.
As was expected, he began by remembering the Sunday night Vegas shooting and the recent hurricanes that left a swathe of devastation in its wake across Houston, Florida, and Puerto Rico. He said that Google was “working to do our part.”
He spoke about the company’s transitional endeavors from a mobile world to an “AI world,” citing a recent effort in Lagos, Nigeria, where the company successfully mapped out 5000 kilometers of road in the city with the help of machine learning – all this in just a few months.
Pichai then mentioned about a similar attempt in San Francisco where Google is looking to solve parking woes by using machine learning to identify available parking in the city.
He said that machine learning helps ‘Google Translate’ process 2 billion translations every single day.
“It’s not just about applying machine learning in our products; it’s about radically rethinking how computing works.”
Speaking about the key components in an AI-first scenario he said, “In an AI first world, computers should adapt to how people live their lives, rather than people adapting their behavior.”
All in all, Pichai’s keynote address revolved around the company’s focus on machine learning and artificial intelligence – an “AI world,” which is conversational and sensory; ambient enough for multiple-device-adaptability; and which is also contextual and situational.
“We are very confident about our approach here because we are at the forefront of the shift to AI,” he said.
Suddenly, it was hardware time; time for the Google hardware team to take over and unveil the new range of Google products – the main purpose of the event, really!
But, before that, a word from Google hardware head, Rick Osterloh. He stressed upon the importance of AI and software, combining to improve hardware. He said that big strides forward for devices call for the successful merging of AI, software, and hardware, promising that the next generation of Google devices is “radically helpful.”
Here’s a sketch of the Google devices launched at the event after a decent, if not impressive, opening.
Google Home Mini
Isabelle Olsson, team lead of Home hardware, presented the Home Mini smart speaker, Google’s answer to Amazon’s Echo Dot. However, there is a key difference, in that the Home Mini has a classy fabric finish, allowing it blend in with the user’s home.
“You can make it your sous-chef in the kitchen, your white noise machine in the nursery, your voice remote for your TV in the living room, or your alarm clock in the bedroom, or all of the above,” Olsson said.
Here are the key points covered by Olsson in her presentation of the Home Mini – “the newest member of the Google’s Home family.”
- Striking simplicity in its circular design – sleek, smooth, with no corners or edges
- Almost entirely covered by fabric
- 4 LED lights, under the fabric, light up to indicate that “it hears you, or it’s thinking”
- Can be controlled by touch – a quick tap will allow you to “pause your music, adjust the volume or talk to your assistant.”
- Mini’s circular shape allows 360° projection of really “crisp” sound regardless of your position in the room.
- Can be easily connected to any Chromecast built-in speaker wirelessly
- Available in 3 beautiful colors – coral, chalk, and charcoal
- Retail price of $49 in the U.S.
- Available to pre-order online with immediate effect
- Will be available with major retailers starting October 19
Additional family features will be rolled out later in the month on all Home devices, informed Rishi Chandra
Google Home Max
Rishi Chandra, Google’s Director Product Management, unveiled the Google Home Max, which is, he claimed, “the biggest and best sound in Google Home ever.”
Here’s a rundown of the key features discussed by Chandra.
- Two 4.5” woofers with 22 mm of excursion – “an extremely high range for this size,” says Chandra
- Packs 20 times the power of Google Home – “Max can play loud, really loud.”
- Adaptable to different acoustic conditions using Smart Sound – “a new audio experience powered by Google’s AI”
- Supports Cast, Bluetooth, and Stereo Aux Input
- Built-in Google Assistant
- Can hear voice commands even when the music is at full volume, using unique microphone placement and Google’s neural beam-forming technology
- Can be placed vertically or horizontally – “it’s base magnetically pops into place” without the need of rubber feet
- Will be available effective December at $399
- Will be available in two colors – chalk and charcoal
- Free 12-month subscription to YouTube Red
It was then time for the Google Pixelbook and on came Matt Vokoun, Director Product Management, to talk about it.
Here’s the take from what he said.
- With a thickness, or should we say thinness, of 10 mm and weighing just 1 kg, the Pixelbook is the “thinnest, lightest laptop Google has ever made”
- Pixelbook’s 13.3” touch-screen display is “gorgeously high resolution, with vibrant colors, deep blacks, and enough brightness to use outside, even on a sunny day
- Extremely thin keyboard with soft-touch keys and backlit design
Intel® Core™ I5 and I7 processors
- Up to 16 Gigs of RAM and 512 GB storage
- Long lasting battery allows up to10 hours of usage time on a single charge
- Up to two hours of use on a 15-minute charge
- Pixelbook charger can be used with Pixel smartphone and vice versa
- Automatically connects to the net through your Pixel smartphone in the absence of WiFi – Google calls it “instant tethering”
- First laptop with built-in Google Assistant accessible with the press of a button on the smart keyboard allowing you to type in your request.
- When using the Pixelbook as Tab you can show the Google Assistant what you really need help with on the screen, with the help of the Pixelbook Pen. All you need to do is use the pen to circle an image or text on the screen and the Assistant will respond by giving you more information on the circled item. Additionally, the pen can be used to write or draw on your screen, should you feel the need. It is the fastest, most responsive stylus experience.
- Fully supports Google Play, making smartphone apps available on the Pixelbook
- Pixelbook price starts at $999 while the Pixelbook Pen is priced at $99
- Both will be available in the U.S., Canada, and the U.K. on the Google Store and over 1000 retail locations including Best Buy
- Pre-order is already in effect
- Will be available in stores starting October 31
Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL
Next, it was Google’s Mario Queiroz’s turn to present the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL smartphones.
- Available in 2 sizes, the 5” Pixel 2 and the 6” Pixel 2 XL
- Front facing stereo speakers are “precision tuned to deliver the perfect balance of volume, clarity, and frequency response.”
- Included adapter allows you to use it with your existing analog headphone
- The smaller Pixel 2 comes with a full HD OLED display
- Queiroz described the available color choices as – “kinda blue,” “just black,” and “clearly white,” drawing laughter from the audience.
- The 6” Pixel 2 XL incorporates P-OLED display technology with “elegantly curved” glass to “bring the display to the edges for a full-screen immersive viewing experience”
- Both phones have optimized displays for Virtual Reality
- The Pixel 2 XL comes in 2 colors, “just black” and the “stylishly simple black and white.”
- Same grade experience on both sizes – “We don’t set aside better features for the larger device,” Queiroz said.
- “Both the models are IP67 water and dust resistant and have an all-day battery that charges super-fast” – you are good for seven hours with a 15-minute charge.
- Faster and easier access to Google Assistant with a new feature called Active Edge. All you need to do is “give a quick squeeze where your hand naturally holds the phone and ask for whatever you need.”
- 12 MP, F1.8 aperture rear camera with optical image stabilization and increased dynamic range and improved texture and sharpness
- Allows portrait mode with both front and rear cameras
- Video stabilization enables shake-free videos
- Will allow you to transfer all your stuff from your old phone to the Pixel 2 in less than 10 minutes
- Pixel 2 starts at $649 for the 64-GB version
- Pixel 2 XL starts at $849
- Both phones will be available in 6 countries – Australia, Canada, Germany, India, the U.K. and the U.S.
- Pre-order starting immediately
- Free Google Home Mini with both phones for a limited period in all of the aforementioned countries, except India.
Google Day Dream View
Google’s Justin Payne takes over to present the newly updated Google Day Dream View, Google’s Virtual Reality headset. It encompasses everything from last year’s version that people loved – making it “even better.”
- New colors and upgraded lenses and fabric, giving the headset “the widest field view yet and it’s super light and comfortable.”
- Allows you to “cast the experiences to the TV” allowing your “friends and family to see what you are seeing.”
- Payne claims it is the best VR headset in the market
- Available for $99
Google Pixel Buds
Justin Payne then went to talk Google Pixel Buds. “A smart, new audio accessory that works perfectly with Pixel 2,” is how he described Pixel Buds.
- Designed for great sound delivering “clear highs’ and “deep base”
- Super easy music control by simply tapping to start/stop music or swiping forward or backward to change volume
- Pairing the Pixel Buds with the Pixel 2 gives you instant access to Google Assistant. All you need to do is touch and hold the Bud and ask the Assistant to play music, send a text message, or give walking directions while your phone stays in your pocket all the while
Alerts you to new notifications and even reads out your messages for you.
- Allows real-time translation with the help of Google Translate, powered by machine learning. “It’s like having a personal translator by your side,” says Payne.
- Capable of translating 40 languages
- The Pixel Buds come in a pocket-sized charging case providing five hours of listening time on a single charge
- The case holds multiple-charges allowing up to 24 hours of listening time
- Available in “kinda blue,” “just black,” and “clearly white”
- Will be available in November for $59 with pre-order already in effect
The last, but not the least by a long shot, was the unveiling of the Google Clips – “an entirely new type of camera that works with your Pixel,” Payne explained. He said that the first edition was designed with parents and pet owners in mind allowing you to “capture those spontaneous smiles, first steps, and first tricks.”
- Clips is equipped with a high-performance lens, a powerful image sensor, and a shutter button
- It is small enough to be tossed into your pocket
- It’s a hands-free camera, which s serves more as a personal photographer than a camera
- Can be attached to almost anything or just put down anywhere you’d like the image perspective from
- It resembles a camera and has an indicator light allowing everyone to know what it is – so, no one can accuse you of shooting with a hidden camera
- All the machine learning happens independently on the device itself
It captures little snippets which can be saved as a motion photo or a high resolution still
- Will be available soon for $249