Google has been nurturing hardware ambitions for long. After all, the success of that company, just a 120-minute drive up north in Palo Alto, is too much for Mountain View to ignore. So, a year after it launched the first Pixel phones, Google unveiled a new range of smartphones, the Google Pixel 2 and Google Pixel 2 XL. Along with the Android flagships, it also unveiled Google Home smart speakers and Google Pixel Bud earphones and even a Google Clip intelligent camera. CEO Sundar Pichai underlined the vision clearly: all these devices strive to synergise hardware, software and artificial intelligence. However, this synergy will also do their best to augment Google’s core business of search.
The Google Home smart speakers are in their second generation. The speakers help users go hands-free while at home to make a call or ask Google’s machine learning and artificial-intelligence-driven virtual assistant to give an answer for their queries, ranging from the latest movie in town to a readout of the shopping list. In an offline world, we would have to make do with a notebook or a post-it or even an offline old world directory or a list to complete these tasks. Your grocery shopping list is now a voice note that gets saved on Google servers and is later searched and retrieved, again using Google’s tech. It is no longer a crumpled note in your pocket.
With the Google Assistant, Google has the capability to own your behaviour. For instance, if you have been going to a specific site for your daily dose of jokes, you might now end up asking the AI bot for the same. It will pull up a joke as it deems fit; it most probably won’t be from the site you like. You will get cricket match scores on your phone without visiting the site you so loved because of their analysis. Yes, Google will own your search and change your behaviour with the convenience it offers. But with these queries there won’t really be options for the user to choose from, as is the case with web-based search.
Even on the phone, the Google App now gives a lot of searches from movie listings to cricket scores and disease details as cards pulled from a source of its choice, not the user’s choice.
Its improved abilities with search has also helped it open up to a completely new, but extremely large, category of users. Yes, children will be more attuned to searching with voice as it will come more naturally to them. This was, until now, a near non-existent base for Google, maybe with the exception of YouTube where it started looking out for kids long back. Given that adults might get bored with voice search in a while, opening up to children is brilliant. In the Google Assistant, they might finally find someone who will listen to them, a tough proposition in most urban households. Also, you can now search for the cube root of 678 and get the answer in a jiffy, making homework easier.
There were two surprise launches too from Google: the Pixel Buds, a pair of earphones with the virtual assistant built in along with the ability to translate languages for you in real-time, and the Google Clips, a wireless smart camera. The Pixel Buds will let you get queries from the Assistant even in the middle of a song you are listening to, but it will also translate a conversation in a foreign language real-time, using Google Translate. This product is a game-changer, but again makes good use of a technology Google has developed over the years. The Google Clips, on the other hand, is intelligent enough to take photos on its own, learning which are the best moments and emotions to capture. There is a partner product called the Nest Hello door bell, which recognises who’s at the door by actually querying millions of faces in some database and finding a match, and you don’t even have to ask for it.
For Google devices, everything is just a search away. In fact, it is making search easy for the user and maybe getting them to query something which otherwise would not have needed online or device intervention. Thus, with its new launches, Google has shown how even in its hardware ambitions it is trying to further its core business of search. As it uses its ever-increasing database about everyone, it will be able to optimise results and advertisements for users, and in the process getting even better at its core business.