On October 4, Google held a product launch event in San Francisco. Fast Company’s Daniel Terdiman, Mark Sullivan, and Harry McCracken were there to provide live updates on the news, which included two Pixel phones, low-end and high-end versions of the Google Home smart speaker, a Chrome OS-based laptop-tablet hybrid called the PixelBook, an update to the Daydream headset, Pixel Buds headphones, and the AI-infused Google Clips camera. See below for a replay of our coverage–and read these additional stories:
Here’s Google hardware chief Rick Osterloh wrapping up the event in front of an image of all the new hardware the company announced today. Thanks to all who joined our live coverage—more thoughts to come.
Daniel Terdiman10.04.171:44 pmShare This Update
Here’s our whole post on Google’s new virtual reality and augmented reality products/offerings.
Harry McCracken10.04.171:40 pmShare This Update
Google has one more thing for us: a mini-camera called Google Clips. It’s small and square and has a clip/stand, and you can set it up to automatically take photos, using on-device machine learning technology that helps it decide what to shoot. It’s the first hardware today that doesn’t at all feel like an answer to something else released by another large company. (There may be some parallels with GoPro, but Clips doesn’t look action-oriented.)
Clips is $249, which means it won’t be an impulse item.
Harry McCracken10.04.171:37 pmShare This Update
The rumored Google wireless earbuds are real. They’re called Pixel Buds, cost $159, and are connected by a cord, making them feel like a relic of a pre-AirPod world.
Daniel Terdiman10.04.171:34 pmShare This Update
Just like at last year’s Pixel event, Google has unveiled a new VR headset this year: The second-gen Daydream View. At $99, it’s not all that different than last year’s, though it does have improved lenses and a wider field of view. But there are now 250 different pieces of VR content for the platform.
That includes some premium, YouTube VR series, and the ability to watch IMAX movies in VR through Google Play.
Harry McCracken10.04.171:29 pmShare This Update
The Pixel 2 starts at $649 for 64GB of storage; the Pixel 2 XL, with an OLED screen, starts at $849 for 64GB. A limited-time offer throws in a free Google Home Mini.
I wondered if Google had struck more carrier deals to get the new phones in front of more consumers, but nope: Verizon is still the only U.S. carrier that will have it in its stores.
On to camera stuff. Google says that the new Pixel phones fight blurry images by intelligently shooting a burst of images and picking the best.
The new Pixels have a portrait mode, like Apple’s iPhone 8 Plus and iPhone X—but Google says that it’s figured out how to artfully blur backgrounds with only one camera and a bit of machine learning. It also works on the front camera for selfies.
Also new: the use of both optical image stabilization and electronic image stabilization, in a way that Google says beats the emphasis on OIS in other high-end phones.
Google’s Aparna Chennapragada is showing off some augmented-reality stickers on the Pixel phone. As with Apple’s ARKit, the technology looks nifty but nothing demoed onstage looks anything like a killer app. Pokémon Go, which predates AR being built into mobile operating systems, remains the category’s defining example.
A Google presenter said “We don’t set aside better features for the larger device,” in a clear shot at Apple for the way it distributes new features and components across iPhones. This year, of course, Apple saved the newest, coolest features for its iPhone X.
Daniel Terdiman10.04.171:18 pmShare This Update
Google is partnering with all kinds of content owners for its AR stickers, including Disney on a set of stickers that will be released just in time for Star Wars: The Last Jedi.
There will also be opportunities for other third parties to create stickers.
Daniel Terdiman10.04.171:17 pmShare This Update
Google’s launching AR stickers, which can be easily added to photos and videos. For example, characters from Stranger Things can be incorporated into any scene in your life.
The characters can even interact with each other, and the stickers are meant to react to lighting conditions, so that they look good in your photos and videos.
Harry McCracken10.04.171:14 pmShare This Update
Daniel Terdiman10.04.171:13 pmShare This Update
“Lens it.” That’s the phrase Google’s using for the new Lens feature on its Pixel phones. The tool lets you quickly find out information about all kinds of things, from books to albums to art, even to emails printed on flyers on a telephone poll.
So, just “Lens it,” Google says, and you can get the information you need quickly and easily.
Mark Sullivan10.04.171:11 pmShare This Update
Example: The new Pixel phones use on-device machine learning to tell you what song is playing and to help you locate it in your music service. It displays the information on the lock screen of the new Pixel phones. Google stressed that this all happens on the device, and the information is never seen by Google. If this sounds familiar, it’s because Apple always says this about AI on the iPhone. Google is responding directly to consumer fears about the growing power of AI to comprehend, and act on, user information.
Harry McCracken10.04.171:08 pmShare This Update
A new Pixel feature called “Active Edge” lets you squeeze the phone to activate Google Assistant. The company says it investigated dozens of ways to trigger the Assistant, and that squeezing felt the most natural—and even works if your Pixel is in a case.
Harry McCracken10.04.171:05 pmShare This Update
We’ve entered the smartphone section of the event. As expected, Google is announcing a new 5″ Pixel 2 and 6.2″ Pixel 2 XL.
The design of the new versions looks similar to last year’s versions, with a two-tone backside and a fingerprint scanner on the back. There’s no headphone jack.
Like last year, Google had fun with the names.: the 2 is available in kinda blue, just black, clearly white.
In a jab at Apple, which put better and more cameras in the iPhone 8 Plus and iPhone X, Google is pointing out that the features are the same on both sizes of Pixel.
Daniel Terdiman10.04.171:05 pmShare This Update
There are two new Pixel phones, and while they come in different sizes, the feature set is the same on both devices, says Google’s Mario Queiroz.
And taking a little shot at Apple’s new iPhones, he added, “We don’t set aside the best features for the bigger device.”
Mark Sullivan10.04.171:01 pmShare This Update
Google says it’s taught its Google Home smart speakers some new tricks, with kids and families in mind.
A new broadcast feature allows one Google Home to broadcast a message (like “time to go to school”) to every Google Home in the house. New Family Link accounts will let kids have accounts on the Google Home. There’s also a set of new experiences for kids on the Home for learning. Like musical chairs, and “beat box.” Google also worked with Disney to add Star Wars-related experiences.
The company is also opening the platform to developers so that they too can create new experiences for kids. This all becomes available on all Home devices later this month.
Harry McCracken10.04.171:00 pmShare This Update
Harry McCracken10.04.1712:55 pmShare This Update
Like Microsoft’s Surface and Apple’s iPad Pro, the PixelBook will offer a pen. Based on Wacom technology, it has 2,000 levels of pressure sensitivity. So far, Google is emphasizing using it for note taking and annotation rather than drawing.
Drawing isn’t something people have traditionally done on Chromebooks, but the PixelBook supports Android apps. In fact, Google says that Snap is working on a big-screen-optimized version of Snapchat.
Harry McCracken10.04.1712:51 pmShare This Update
It’s been awhile since Google announced a Chromebook of its own, but as rumored, the PixelBook is among today’s announcements. It has a 12.3-inch touch screen, is 10mm thick, and weighs one kilogram, and you can fold back the keyboard to put it into tablet mode or prop it up like a tent for movie-watching. The aesthetics look a lot like the Pixel phone.
You can get it with up to 16GB of RAM and 512GB of storage, and runs for up to 10 hours on a charge. An “instant tethering” feature lets you connect to the internet through a Pixel phone.
It’s also the first laptop with the Google Assistant baked in,
Mark Sullivan10.04.1712:47 pmShare This Update
Google’s new Google Home Max speaker, a powerful Assistant- powered speaker designed for playing music in the home.
The Max is loud–Google says it’s 20X louder than Google Home. Google said it’s using its AI for something called Smart Sound, which tunes the Max’s speaker to the room it’s playing in. And it supports third-party services like Spotify and Pandora.
The Max is available in December for $399 in the U.S. (the HomePod will sell for $349). The Max comes in chalk and charcoal colors. And it comes with a free subscription to YouTube Red, Google said.
Harry McCracken10.04.1712:45 pmShare This Update
Google’s Home Max is a $399 competitor to Apple’s HomePod—a smart speaker with an emphasis on audio quality.
Annelise McGough10.04.1712:42 pmShare This Update
Maaan, Google is saying the right things to my smart-home-invested ears. I'm glad Google Home has grown so much. I'm in! #madebygoogle
Disney—a company that you usually think of as being tight with Apple—is onboard with a new Google Home storytelling feature for kids. Mickey Mouse and Lightning McQueen will be featured.
Harry McCracken10.04.1712:38 pmShare This Update
If you have multiple Google Home devices in your household, you’ll be able to use them as a public-announcement system, Chandra says—for instance, to declare that it’s time to get ready for school, a message that all your Homes will broadcast. “Kids are going to hate this feature,” he says.
Harry McCracken10.04.1712:36 pmShare This Update
Nest CTO Yoki Matsuoka is onstage showing how Google hardware such as Google Home can work together with Nest devices such as its thermostat. It’s the latest sign that Google wants people to think of the Google and Nest ecosystems as being one world—or at least two deeply intertwined ones.
Harry McCracken10.04.1712:34 pmShare This Update
Google has done a good job of salting Googlers and VIPs in the audience here at SFJazz. At least I hope those aren’t journalists being audibly impressed by some of the news so far.
Daniel Terdiman10.04.1712:33 pmShare This Update
If you’re one of those people who loses your phone in your house all the time, Google Home has your back. If you say, “Hey, Google, where’s my phone,” it’ll automatically ping your Android phone, even if the ringer is off. And if you have an iPhone, no worries–Home’ll just call it.
The Home Mini will come in three colors, covered in fabric made of yarn that Google says was custom-designed for the purpose.
Mark Sullivan10.04.1712:30 pmShare This Update
Google Home Mini is a smaller version of the Google Home smart speaker. The Mini is 4 inches across and weighs well less than a pound. Google says the Mini does everything the larger Google Home does, just in a smaller package. A speaker sits in the bottom of the device facing upward. And of course the Mini has the Google AI assistant inside.
The Mini will retail for $49 in the U.S. It will available for pre-order starting today, and will go on sale in stores October 19. It’s coming to all countries where Google Home is already available, Google says.
Daniel Terdiman10.04.1712:28 pmShare This Update
Google Home Mini, which will come in three colors–charcoal, coral, and chalk–has all the power of Google Home. It’ll cost $49, and pre-orders are being taken today. It’ll start shipping October 19.
Harry McCracken10.04.1712:24 pmShare This Update
Now onstage: Google’s Rishi Chandra, who’s talking about the Google Assistant. He’s recapping the Voice Match feature, which can identify the voice of specific users and provide info tailored to a particular person. Over half of queries come from people who use the feature, he says.
Daniel Terdiman10.04.1712:24 pmShare This Update
Google Home will now let any user make phone calls with just their voice, and to any phone number in the U.S. or Canada. And it will do so using their own personal cell phone number.
Osterloh says that Google has often not been first to a market—dating all the way back to its original search engine. But it tries to succeed by being radically helpful. That might be a tacit acknowledgement that products such as Google Home and Google Wifi have entered categories pioneered by Amazon and Eero, respectively.
Harry McCracken10.04.1712:18 pmShare This Update
Harry McCracken10.04.1712:17 pmShare This Update
“I just wish we had a few more to go around,” says Osterloh of the Google Pixel phones which debuted last year. They’ve been tough for consumers to find, but well-reviewed.
Osterloh also says that features like a great camera are now table stakes, and the future lies at the intersection of AI, software, and hardware.
Mark Sullivan10.04.1712:16 pmShare This Update
Here’s Sundar opening the event. He says we’re moving from a mobile-first to an AI-first world.
Harry McCracken10.04.1712:14 pmShare This Update
Pichai has handed off the event to Google hardware chief Rick Osterloh, who’s recapping the world’s reaction to the products—Pixel phones, the Home speaker, and Daydream VR—which Google announced at an event exactly one year ago today.
Daniel Terdiman10.04.1712:14 pmShare This Update
Google’s Rick Osterloh says that the company is bringing on 2,000 hardware engineers as it moves into its second year as a maker of all kinds of devices, from Pixel phones to Google Home to Daydream View, and others.
Harry McCracken10.04.1712:11 pmShare This Update
Pichai is talking about recent Google work in AI, including object detection. The company is using a technology called AutoML which can do object detection without human training; it’s up to 43% accuracy, which is a major advance.
Harry McCracken10.04.1712:06 pmShare This Update
Google’s demo of video and photos shot with the new image stabilization is impressive even by the standards of onstage demonstrations of smartphone cameras. Now to find out how well they work the Pixel phones’ cameras work in the real world.
Daniel Terdiman10.04.1712:00 pmShare This Update
So, we’re all waiting for the big Pixel event to start, but according to Business Insider, Google has already inadvertently leaked images of the new phones. Check it out.
As usual, the pre-event scuttlebutt for this Google event isn’t reaching the frenzied crescendo that’s normal for Apple. But there are some tidbits out there. VentureBeat’s Evan Blass has some facts and images relating to Google’s new Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL phones. Over at XDA Developers, Mishaal Rahman says that the phones will have a feature similar to Apple’s Live Photos. And 9to5Google’s Abner Li has written about the new Pixelbook Chromebook and something called “Clips.”
Pixel 2 leaks: The bezels aren’t tiny… they’re smaller, but not tiny.