Last year’s I/O focused on software and since Google typically alternate between software and hardware, the rumors about the new Pixel 3A and Nest Hub Max were buzzing before the keynote last Tuesday.
If you missed the keynote or want an I/O brush-up, we’ve gathered the top keynote announcements for you in this blog.
Pixel 3A and 3A XL
As I said, rumors about new hardware were buzzing before this year’s I/O keynote, and last Tuesday, Google confirmed the cheaper Pixel 3A phone and the Nest Hub Max.
The new Pixel 3A phones prove that state-of-the-art software doesn’t have to cost a fortune. The new Pixel phones start at $399, and they come with the advanced camera features that the Pixel line has been known for, including Night Sight, Super Res Zoom, and portrait mode on both front- and rear-facing cameras. And, they come with headphone jacks, so you can listen to music on the go with your favorite headphones whether they’re wireless earbuds or not.
The lower prices does give up some features, like waterproofing and wireless charging, and while Google offers free Google Photos storage on the cloud to all Pixel 3A owners, the quality uploaded will be limited to high quality instead of full resolution.
The new Pixels come in three colors - black, white, and purple-ish - and are sold in 13 different countries.
Nest Hub Max
Another confirmed rumor was the Nest Hub Max. Google announced that the Google Home line will be rebranded under the Google Nest umbrella. The new Nest Hub Max is essentially a combination of the Nest camera, Google Home Hub, and the Google Home Max, offering security camera, smart display, and loudspeakers all in one.
Thanks to the built-in camera, the Nest Hub Max offers some interesting features, like facial recognition that allows it to bring up personalized results between members of your family. The camera also helps you stay connected to your family and friends, and video calling is easy with Google Duo. The camera has a wide-angle lens, and it automatically adjusts to keep you centered in the frame.
Last but not least, the camera offers on-device gesture recognition technology, which allows you to use Quick Gestures. Instead of yelling to turn it down or pause the game, just look at the device and raise your hand, and Nest Hub Max will pause your media.
Google also noted that processing happens locally, so no facial data is transmitted over the web, and with the on/off-switch, you can easily switch your camera off.
The Nest Hub Max arrives later this summer.
Android Q beta 3
Android Q is expected to launch in full in August this year, but at last week’s I/O, Google dropped Android Q beta 3, which offers Dark Theme. The Dark Theme was also available in the earlier Android Q beta, but back then, turning it on/off wasn’t as easy as it should have been. With Android Q beta 3 you can select the inverted app colors manually or turn it on using battery saver mode.
Android Q will also have a Focus Mode that, instead of just greying out the screen like Wind Down mode, lets you select particular apps that you want to avoid using during a period of time and only disable those. With Android Q, parents will also be able to link their accounts with the ones of their kids, so they can set app limitations to see what apps their kids are spending the most time on.
Another Q feature is Smart Reply, which will be offered in third-party messaging apps. This means that if your texting your friend something about commutes or an address, it offers suggested actions, such as opening Google Maps.
Soon Google will bring Live Captions to all videos. Whether you’re watching a video on your camera roll, on an app or the web, or even video chats, Google can add subtitles to what is being said right underneath.
According to the tech giant, this feature is built for people who are deaf or hard of hearing. However, the feature might also be useful if you’re watching videos in public and want to keep the volume down or while you’re on a call. Live Caption is also being added to phone calls, so you can get a live transcription of the current conversation.
Google Lens update
Google Lens is also getting some interesting updates, such as being able to contextualize a restaurant menu or information on a piece of paper. So, when you’re sitting in a thai restaurant wondering what Kai Med Ma Muang is, Lens can now search for it and find photos of that dish based on Google Maps information, so you can see how it looks before ordering.
If your dining with friends, you can also point the camera at the receipt, which will bring up a calculator that lets you add tip and split the bill. If you point the camera at a sign in a foreign language, Lens will give you a live text-to-speech translation.
Hovering Google Lens over magazines that Google has partnered with can also bring images to life, such as a recipe on Bon Appétit Magazine.
Duplex on the web
Last year, Google surprised everyone with the humain-sounding AI that booked an appointment at the hairdresser. This year, the company announced that it will extend the service to web-based chats, such as car rentals and movie booking.
Duplex can now pull your information and navigate the web for you to book things, like car rentals or movie tickets. However, instead of just confirming a booking for you, you can now scan the auto-filled forms to approve what Duplex has written.
In general, Google Assistant is getting smarter and will in the future be able to reply to messages and write emails, among other things. It’ll also be available in driving mode to continue functioning while it navigates you in Google Maps. Finally, the Assistant will soon follow your orders without you having to start your sentences with “Hey Google”.
Google is also adding new features to Search. A new integration of your camera and AR features will allow you to see 3D models in your search results. The company showed off its usage for studying and academic purposes, but it will probably also be useful for shopping and visualizing try-ons of clothes and other products you’d like to buy.