Google’ New Assistant
CEO Sundar Pichai kicked off the new Google hardware launch with the promise of a Google Assistant that can handle a two-way conversation and which would become a unique Google Assistant for each user. He promoted the Google Assistant’s AI interface as the current big shift in technology, equal to the PC of the 1980’s, the introduction of the web in the 90’s, and the Mobile computing breakthrough in the mid 2000’s.
This Google Assistant is the basis for several new hardware that will reach store shelves very soon.
Meet Pixel and Pixel XL
Senior Vice President Rick Osterloh introduced us to two new smartphones made by Google, the 5 inch Pixel, and the 5.5 inch Pixel Plus which became available in November in really blue, very silver, quite black. They are the first phones to have the Google Assistant built in and will feature a sleek all-metal body, a headphone jack, and no camera bump.
DxOMark, a company known for its extensive analysis of the image and video quality of cameras, lenses, and mobile phones, gave the Pixel an 89 rating which is higher than the highly hyped camera on the iPhone 7 Plus. A great feature is that both Pixel phones have the same camera which features a 12-megapixel rear camera with an f/2.0 aperture, a large 1.55 micron pixel sensor, HDR plus, and no shutter lag.
We were presented with an impressive new video stabilization feature. Google is also offering free unlimited storage for photos and videos created on the Pixel and stored in Google Photos. These photos and videos will be stored in their original quality even up to 4K at no additional cost.
With a feature similar to Amazon’s May Day, Google will offer 24-7 live customer care with screen share option. Google says that 15 minutes of charging time will give you 7 talk hours.
The Pixel will be exclusive to Verizon and will also be sold at Google store in an unlocked version. Pre-orders start today at Verizon with the price for the smaller Pixel starting at $649 or $27 a month.
The Pixel will be ready to let you enter Virtual Reality with Daydream, the new VR headset. It is a unique headset made with a soft, flexible, breathable micro fabric that comes in slate, snow, and crimson. It is lightweight and easily fits over eyeglasses. When you pop in your phone, it will set up wirelessly. More Daydream enabled phones are promised soon. The Daydream controller will have only two buttons and will fit into the headset case for storage.
The Daydream View is touted to be low latency and Google has promised a rich VR ecosystem starting with J.K. Rolling’s Fantastic Beasts where you can become a wizard, solar system explorations, space battles, and the entire catalogues of Netflix and Hulu.
It will also support Google Play movies, Google Photos, You Tube VR content, and Google’s Streetview. The 150 curated tours of the world’s most famous places look fantastic. If Google has made progress in image quality the $79 headset will be a real winner.
Google announced a new Wi-Fi expandable system with multiple access points simple. The small, good, looking device will allow you to add Wi-Fi points to extend coverage. Google will also still support their OnHub router and it will accept the new access points. It will ship in December at $129 for one or $229 for a 3 pack.
Google has sold over 30 million Chromecasts and now they have improved on the original with Chromecast Ultra. This is a faster loading, supports 4K video, HDR, and Dolby Vision. It will be available in November for $69.
Google’s answer to Amazon’s Echo is the free-standing device called Google Home. Like Alexa, it can play music, answer questions, manage everyday tasks, and control home devices. It features a white angular top which is also a touch panel and swappable bases in different colors and textures
Answering to “OK Google”, the home device will play music from You Tube, Spotify, Pandora and others. It will support home connectivity products from Nest, Philips, and Smart Things. It will also support IFTTT.
The features are similar to the Echo but there are a few features that could be standouts. Google Home will provide voice control to the TV through Chromecast. It will play the same song across multiple devices. And, if Google is right, their Google Assistant will be more capable than Amazon’s Alexa or Microsoft’s Cortana. Google Home will be shipping on November 4th and at $129, may be an enticing purchase.
Plans for Expansion
Google is busy making strong partners to support these devices. Like Amazon, Google will court developers to expand their ecosystem as quickly as possible. The Google Assistant will be open to developers in December with an SDK launch next year.
I have watched hardware and software announcements over many years, and never before have I wanted to own every product shown. Everything from the Pixel phone to Daydream View to Google Home look to be well-planned, well-designed products, with desirable must-have features. If the Google Assistant produces the expected results, all could be wildly popular.