Google hosted a much-anticipated hardware event on Wednesday in San Francisco to refresh its premium Pixel line of phones. The company, which is fresh from buying the HTC unit that made the original Pixel, introduced Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL models. In a major push into hardware, Google also announced new versions of Google Home, its smart speaker, including a low-cost model that could be priced below $50. Google also unveiled a new version of Daydream, its VR headset, as well as a new high-end (and very pricey) Chromebook.
Forbes reported the announcements live:
9:05 am Google CEO Sundar Pichai takes the stage and begins by touting Google’s commitment to AI. “It is radically rethinking how computing should work,” Pichai said. “Computers should adapt to how people live their lives,” not the other way around, he adds. Computing will be conversational, ambient and contextual. It’s a unique moment in time, when Google can bring AI, software and hardware together, Pichai says, to lead the way forward. “The rate at which we are seeing progress in AI is amazing,” Pichai adds, highlighting how Google’s latest vision algorithms outperform human vision.
9:20 am Hardware SVP Rick Osterloh takes the stage. He says it’s, you guessed it, “early days” for Google hardware, but the company is off to a good start. “Pixel had a great year,” he says, acknowledging Google didn’t make enough phones to meet demand. But here’s the catch. “The playing field for hardware components is leveling off,” he says. That makes it harder and harder to develop new products each year, and that’s why Google is taking a different approach, he says. “Innovation will happen at the intersection of hardware, software and AI,” he says. “That’s where the big leaps forward will happen in the next 10 years.”
9:30 am Rishi Chandra, head of home products, takes the stage to update Google’s smart speaker line, claims Google has the best voice recognition in the market, in part because it has the most data. That’s allowed Google to create Voice Match, which recognizes the voices of different people in a family, Chandra says. He then introduces Isabelle Olsson, lead designer for Google Home. She introduces Home Mini, a small round speaker that comes in 3 colors. It costs $49 and is available for pre-order today.
9:35 am Yoki Matsuoka, CTO of Nest, is up next to talk about how Google and the Alphabet subsidiary are working together on smart home tech. Here’s one example, the Google assistant can activate a smart TV to show you what’s happening on a Nest smart camera, say to monitor your fromt door. Here’s another. with a single command, “Hey Google, Goodnight” arms the security system, tells you what’s on your agenda tomorrow and sets your alarm. “This really simplifies my life,” Matsuoka says.
9:45 am Chandra introduces Google Home Max, a high end smart speaker that’s clearly aimed at competing with Apple’s upcoming smart speaker. It comes equipped with Smart Sound, a new tech that adapts the sound to fit your context, for instance, raising the volume when the dishwasher is running. “It’s about delivering consistent, crisp sound experiences. Available in December, for $399. Watch out Apple.
9:55 am As expected, Google introduces a high end Chromebook called Pixelbook, with a 13.2-inch screen. Thin, convertible into tablet mode, 16GB RAM and 10 hours of battery life. If there is no wifi, it instantly tethers through your phone. Google Assistant comes built-in. It comes with a pen/stylus — circle a photo of an artist, and the Google Assistant will tell you who it is. Google Play smartphone apps run on the Pixelbook. Snap is working with Google to bring a “large screen” experience to the Pixelbook. Here’s the catch. It’s not cheap. Available in 3 configurations, starting at $999, with the pen for an extra $99. Available in the US, Canada and the UK. Pre-orders start today and in stores on Halloween.
10:05 am Mario Queiroz, head of Pixel phones, is now on stage for the main act, the Google Pixel 2, which comes in 5-inch and 6-inch XL versions. Lots of goodies: OLED display in the small version, which comes in 3 colors, including Kind of Blue, black and white. Larger version comes with a slightly curved display that goes all the way to the edges, in black or black and white. Here’s the obligatory dig at Apple. Both devices have the same capabilities. “We don’t set aside feature for the larger device,” Queiroz says.
10:18 am Google execs demo a bunch of software/hardware updates that work with the Pixel 2. You can squeeze the phone to invoke the Google Assistant. The Assistant integrates between the Pixel and Home, so you can send messages like “I’ll be home in 10 minutes” that will get played on your Google Home. Finally Google has notification dots on its apps. Google Lens help you understand the world. It can “read” emails, addresses and phone numbers; it can give you a movie or book review by “looking” at a poster or cover; it recognizes historic monuments. A preview of Lens is coming to Pixel users. Google Lens also comes with AR capabilities that let you bring virtual objects into real places through the screen; or virtual characters into real scenes.
10:30 am Queiroz is back to tout the Pixel 2’s camera. The excellent camera from the Pixel 1 had a DXO score (an industry standard for the amount of information captured by a camera’s lens and how well the lens and camera perform together) of 89. The new one has a score of 98 — the highest score of any smartphone camera. It’s a 12 MP, f 1.8 camera. It comes with a portrait mode that creates depth of field effects on both the main and selfie cameras. A new thing called “fused image stabilization” that improves the stability of videos. Pixel 2 users get free storage for all their photos and videos in the highest resolution. The results look pretty amazing, but we’ll have to test it in real life to know for sure. Pixel 2 starts at $649 and Pixel 2 XL $849, available in six countries in Australia, Canada, Germany India UK and US with preorder today. For a limited time, Google will throw in a Google Home Mini for free.
10:40 am After introducing updates to Google Daydream, the VR headset, Google moves quickly to its latest shot at Apple: A set of premium wireless headphones Google Pixel Buds designed to work and pair easily with the Pixel. Google’s AI is built in, you can speak to the headset in one language, like Swedish, and the phone will translate in real time into English. The demo worked flawlessly. It works in 40 languages. Available in 3 colors, for $159, with preorders starting today and availability in November.
10:45 am Google pulls a “one more thing.” Google Clips, a small, clippable/wearable camera that could well portend the end of struggling action camera maker GoPro. It’s packed with AI to make cool images. It will sell for $249 and will be available soon. Osterloh comes back on stage for a wrap up of the #MadeByGoogle line of products.
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