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Google’s October Event: What it means for AI

Date Posted: 05 October 2017

Leaks of the Pixel 2 and PixelBook in advance meant that yesterday’s (4th October) Google event appeared heavily geared towards the new phones and Chromebook announced. There’s no doubting that the new flagship hardware devices did, to a degree, steal the limelight, and represent landmark launches to date. 

A topic just as pertinent however is what the collective as a whole means for AI more generally. From the intuitive Google Clips to the Pixel Buds’ powers of translation, it was a signal of intent from Google to further ensure AI appears even more integral to users’ everyday lives than ever. We’ve listed below a number of reasons why Google’s keynote event went beyond a pure hardware showcase, and stands as a wider indicator of where exactly we are with AI.

 

1)    The Google Home Mini and Home Max introduce new elements to the connected household

Competition in any industry is no doubt the kind of healthy setup ambitious companies thrive off, and Google’s latest additions certainly up the ante in a sector that has seemingly been dominated by the Echo range. Delightful from an aesthetic perspective, the Home Mini has also been fitted with ‘Voice Match’, a feature that enables the Home speakers to automatically recognise who’s talking and give them tailored responses based on the individual’s Google account. The Google Home Max also similarly boasts welcome additions such as lowering the audio volume in the morning and raising it when the dishwasher is running. Such tailoring is indicative of the supposed usefulness of AI when correctly installed, and a good barometer of how far along that road we are at this point.

 

2)    Google Assistant and Translate are now available in your ear

The Pixel Buds. Google’s first foray into the wireless headphone market, and perhaps not the most attractive entry of the evening. Two things however make it a distinct launch by Google; the inclusion of both Google Assistant and Translate. Users can access the Assistant by pressing down on the right earbud, whereas the Translate allows conversations in real time to be converted to one of 40 languages via the connected smartphone. Having such intuitive, connected tech in user’s ears is another step forward in making such features more accessible, while making the most of Google’s available capabilities. 

 

3)    Google Clips decides when, and what, to take photos of

Google’s new hands-free wireless smart camera, the Clips, is fitted with a learning algorithm, Moment IQ, that allows it to take photos on its own accord based on stored knowledge. It is able to recognise faces, taking more regular photos of those people it understands are important to the user, with the best moments automatically made available in the companion app, where individual frames from Clips can be saved as hi-res photos. Bypassing the initial stage where most devices have to be initiated, whether that be by voice control or otherwise, the Clips is designed to be left to its own devices, and on first impression at least is incredibly consumer friendly. It is also a key example of Google fitting AI into the product itself, without the need to talk to Google’s servers.

 

4)    The emphasis of the whole ‘family’ is connectedness

As is clear, and stated on more than one occasion over the course of the event, the whole series of launches are designed to work in tandem, with the intention of representing a fresh approach to integrating AI, software and hardware. This isn’t a wholly new concept, though to have Google present it so clearly and emphatically is a big step for AI. As is mentioned in a recent article on Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai on The Verge, Google is intent on ‘not just by integrating AI features into every product it makes, but by making products that are themselves inspired by AI, products that wouldn't be conceivable without it’. Placing the emphasis on the AI ahead of the product is an interesting way of approaching a ‘hardware’ launch, and reflects exactly where Google’s intentions really lie.

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