Google's AI-first approach to hardware is taking it in new directions, with smart earbuds and cameras amongst the new gadgets unveiled at the Made By Google event in San Francisco.
While new Pixel smartphones and Home smart speakers were a lock-in at Google's latest hardware launch, the tiny Google Clips smart camera was more of a surprise.
Even smaller than a GoPro, the US$249 Google Clips camera is only two inches square. At first glance looks like yet another action camera rival but Google Clips is more intended for capturing candid family
photos than outdoor action movies. Australian pricing and availability is yet to be announced.
Google's palm-sized camera comes with a rubber casing with a stand for sitting upright on a benchtop, along with a soft clip on the back for attaching it almost anywhere. While the camera has a shutter button, and can be controlled remotely from a smartphone, the idea is to set up the camera during a photo-friendly occasion and let it decide when to take the best photos and video clips.
The camera features a 12-megapixel sensor with a 130-degree field of view and f2.4 aperture, which struggles to produce better pictures than you'd capture with a high-end smartphone. Were this the limit of Google Clips' capabilities then Google would not have bothered entering the crowded camera market, says Rick Osterloh - Google Senior VP of Hardware.
The appeal of Google Clips was a chance to put Google's advanced face recognition, image processing and machine learning algorithms to work in new and interesting ways, Queiroz says. Google Clips is also changing the photo-taking experience, making it easier to capture moments which vanish as soon as you pull your smartphone from your pocket.
Left to its own devices, the tiny Google Clips camera automatically looks for great candid photos – particularly when people are smiling and looking at the camera but not posing for a shot. The idea is to place the camera alongside the cake at a birthday party, or on the kitchen bench when baking, and let it unobtrusively watch for great photo opportunities so the family photographer can remain in the action rather
than behind the lens.
Afterwards users can remotely scroll through the camera's 16GB of onboard storage from their phone, plucking out great photos or short seven-second video clips (without audio as the camera lacks a microphone). You can also turn any video frame into a still photo.
As with Google Clips, the new Pixel Buds wireless earbuds also enter a crowded market but take advantage of Google's powerful AI to stand out from the crowd. The AU$249 earbuds don't yet have an Australian release date but are expected to be available by the end of the year. The wireless earbuds work with any Bluetooth-enabled device, with built-in dual microphones to enable hands-free calling. They also allow owners of Google Assistant-compatible Android phones to access Google's talkative assistant directly from the headset by tapping on the right earbud. This allows wearers to speak directly to Google Assistant without needing to begin every request with "Okay, Google".
What really helps Pixel Buds stand out from the crowd is its ability to tap into the Google Translate app running on Google Pixel smartphones; both the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL announced this year alongside the
earbuds, as well as the original Pixel and Pixel XL launched this time last year.
Asking Google Assistant to "Help me speak French" launches Google Translate on the Pixel phone – translating spoken phrases into French and playing the results via the smartphone's speaker as well as
displaying them on the screen. Responses in French are captured by the Pixel phone's microphone, translated into the user's native tongue and played through the Pixel Buds.
Google Translate via the Pixel Buds supports 40 languages, with the translate features taking a major leap forward in recent times thanks to Google's TensorFlow neural network machine learning.
Thanks to the use of Tensor Flow since 2015, Google has added support for more languages and improved the speed of translations due to enhanced algorithms and new hardware. A 10-word sentence which took 10 seconds to translate is now processed in .2 seconds even though Google Translate handles more than 1 billion translations each day – with 500 million active users across 103 languages.
Meanwhile Google has launched new Google Home Mini and Max speakers to sit alongside the original Google Home smart speaker launched last year.
All three speakers offer users spoken access to Google Assistant using natural language commands and machine learning, allowing users to query Google, stream music, control smart home devices and more. The AU$79 Home Mini sacrifices sound quality and is perhaps best suited for the kitchen bench or bedside table, while the Max will cost north of AU$500 and offers impressive sound quality to rival the highly-respected Sonos streaming speakers.
Adam Turner attended Made By Google event in San Francisco as a guest of