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AI Ripples Through Google’s New Product Lineup

Google on Wednesday launched a bevy of new products into its growing hardware and software ecosystem at its Made by Google event. Many of the new devices are infused with artificial intelligence capabilities.

“Since last year and since Google I/O, we’ve been working hard, continuing our shift from a mobile-first to an AI-first world,” Google CEO Sundar Pichai told the gathering. “We are rethinking all our core products and working hard to solve user problems by applying machine learning and AI.”

Home Improvement

Among the new entries are two new smart speakers that target both the mass market and the audiophile niche, and two next-generation upgrades to the company’s Pixel phone line.

The Google Home Mini is a US$49 smart speaker that is as small as a donut and enclosed by fabric, thus designed to fit comfortably in any room in a home.

The new Home Max, Google’s premium smart speaker, is designed to compete directly with the Apple HomePod and sophisticated devices from Sonos and Harman Kardon. It comes with 20 times more power than the original Google Home and Smart Sound technology that adjusts the sound based on its location in a room.

Focus on Cameras

Google announced its new Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL smartphones, touting their highest-ever smartphone camera ratings from independent camera expert DxOMark.

The camera takes motion photos — that is, it captures a few seconds of video around each still shot. It also features optical and electronic video stabilization for smoother videos.

With augmented reality stickers, Pixel users can add emojis and virtual characters to photos. Pixel 2 and XL users will get an exclusive preview of Google Lens, accessible through Google Assistant, which uses machine learning and computer vision to find landmarks, books, music and art.

The phones have a Snapdragon 835 processor and operate on Android 8.0 Oreo. The battery lasts all day and gains up to seven hours of life with only a 15-minute charge. The phones will receive monthly security updates and are water- and dust-resistant to an IP67 standard.

The Pixel 2 comes with a 5-inch cinematic OLED display and pricing starting at $549. The Pixel 2 XL has a 6-inch OLED 18:9 display that allows for immersive viewing. Its starting price is $769. Both devices are available for preorder at the Google Store and other outlets in the United States, Canada, Germany, Puerto Rico and the UK.

Real-Time Translation

Google also introduced its first set of wireless headphones, Pixel Buds, at Wednesday’s Made by Google event. The buds provide 24 hours of listening time on a charge and can translate language in real time using Google Assistant technology. They are available for preorder in the U.S., priced at $159.

Google also launched a new Daydream View headset with high-performance lenses. It comes in new fog, charcoal and coal colors and can be used with Pixel and other VR-ready mobile phones. Google announced that 250 apps and games are now available for Daydream, up from the 25 apps and games available last year.

Combo Device

Google also announced the Google Pixelbook — designed to combine the best features of a laptop, tablet and smartphone. The device is the company’s thinnest and lightest portable computer, at only 10.3mm thick (less than half an inch) and weighing 1.3 kilograms (just under 3 pounds).

The Pixelbook can function as a normal laptop with a foldable keyboard. In tablet mode, users can watch videos or view other content, read books or take notes. Tent mode makes it easy to follow a recipe in the kitchen.

It uses the Chrome OS with Intel i5 and i7 processors. It has 10 hours of battery life and 512 GB of storage. The compatible Google Pixelbook Pen uses machine learning for handwriting recognition.

The Pixelbook is the first laptop with built-in Google Assistant. It allows users to download apps that normally can be used only on a smartphone or tablet. It is available for preorder in three configurations starting at $999, with the pen sold separately for $99.

Assistant Everywhere

Google’s chief message at the event appeared to be that Google Assistant — widely regarded as the best artificial intelligence and machine learning technology in the space — will be available to users everywhere, whether at home or on the go.

“I think what they are really trying to say is that people have really easy access,” Mark Beccue, principal analyst at Tractica, told TechNewsWorld. “How many touchpoints can I have to make it easy to access Google Assistant?”

Some critics have criticized Google’s price points for the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL, suggesting the company is leaving money on the table, noted Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT.

However, Google is much more interested in making its ecosystem available on a broader range of devices than Apple and Samsung can offer, he told TechNewsWorld.

“Overall, the key message for all their hardware products is Google Assistant — and that’s another differentiator for Google,” said Jitesh Ubrani, senior research analyst at IDC.

“While Apple does a great job at providing a consistent experience across their devices, Google is focused on providing a custom experience,” he told TechNewsWorld. “To me, that has more stickiness.

Source: TechNewsWorld

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Samsung Phone Explodes in Man’s Pocket on Video, Company Blames Third-Party Battery

Samsung smartphones can’t seem to catch a break. Months after the South Korean technology giant put the Galaxy Note 7 smartphone debacle behind it, another Samsung phone went up in flames this week.

A Samsung Grand Duos model released in 2013 exploded in a man’s shirt pocket, Channel News Asia reports. The man in Indonesia is seen falling onto the ground as he tries to remove his shirt after the phone exploded. A graphic CCTV footage of the video, embedded below, also captured the incident.

Samsung told CNET that the device in question had a third-party component. The battery on the used device was not manufactured by Samsung or a company authorised by Samsung, it said. “We sincerely wish for our customer’s swift recovery, and strongly recommend all our consumers to use Samsung’s genuine or approved batteries that have been specifically designed for use in Samsung products.”

The explosion, though no fault of Samsung, is a stark reminder how dangerous these devices could become. Use of third-party batteries and other components is exceptionally common in developing nations, as they tend to be much more affordable than their original counterparts.

But for Samsung, which spent much of the late last year grappling with the Galaxy Note 7 debacle, the new incident could further hurt its brand value, something that contributes immensely on a buyer’s purchase decision.

Last year, Samsung recalled the Galaxy Note 7 after several incidents were reported where the handset was going up in flames. The company later issued an apology and recalled the smartphone.

Source: Gadgets 360

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Google Pixel 2 & Pixel 2 XL Launched

Google Pixel 2 launch event – perhaps the last big smartphone launch of year – commenced, with Google CEO Sundar Pichai taking the stage. The company reserved the two phones till the end, with the unveiling of the new Google Home Max & Home Mini smart speakers and the Pixelbook convertible laptop in the first hour. The Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL were received with cheers from the audience at the event, with the company announcing a host of new features of the second-generation Pixel smartphones. The two phones will take on the likes of iPhone XiPhone 8iPhone 8 PlusSamsung Galaxy Note 8, and LG V30, among others.

Google Pixel 2 specifications, price, launch date

First up, the Pixel 2 specifications include a 5-inch full-HD OLED display, no 3.5mm headphone jack, and a fingerprint sensor that the company says is the fastest in the industry. As for the Pixel 2 XL, the handset has a 6-inch near edge-to-edge display with QHD resolution, as rumoured. There is also a new feature called Active Edge that lets you squeeze the phone to trigger Google Assistant, similar to the squeezable display of HTC U11. Both the phones have Always-On display, and Android Oreo out-of-the-box, with support for minimum 3 years of OS and security updates.

Google Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL will come with octa-core Snapdragon 835 processor (four 2.35GHz cores + four 1.9GHz cores), with 4GB RAM. Storage options include 64GB and 128GB capacities, with unlimited online storage for photos and videos. The two phones have 12.2-megapixel rear camera and 8-megapixel front camera with portrait selfies, bokeh effect, OIS and EIS, as well as Motion Photos (similar to iPhone’s Live Photos). The former will come in Just Black, Clearly White and Kinda Blue colours, while the latter in Just Black and Black & White colours. There’s USB Type-C port, Bluetooth 5.0 + LE, stereo speakers, dual-band Wi-Fi, GPS, GLONASS, and NFC. Pixel 2 battery capacity is 2700mAh, and 3520mAh for Pixel 2 XL.

The Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL will be available at $649 and $849, respectively, and will be launched in Australia, Canada, Germany, India, the UK, and the US in the first wave of release. Google has also announced a new Pixel Bud wireless earphones, which can translate languages (including Hindi and Bengali) seamlessly. The headphones have 5-hour battery life, and will come at $159, with pre-orders starting today.

Google Home Max, Home Mini, and more

Pichai started the event by talking about the importance of machine learning and the AI-first world, along with the need to make interaction between AI and humans more natural. Rick Osterloh, Google’s hardware lead took the stage after Pichai and started off with a mention of the recent HTC acquisition. He said the distinguishing feature of smartphones in the coming generation will be at a conjunction of software, hardware and AI.

The Google Home Mini, a smaller smart speaker has also been unveiled at the event. It is made almost entirely out of fabric, and can pause or play music with just a tap on the speaker. Priced at $49 in the US, the Google Home Mini will be available for pre-orders tonight and go on sale on October 19. It will be available in Australia, Germany, Japan, the UK, France and Canada as well. To recall, Google Home Mini had been leaked earlier.

Another new product at the Google Pixel 2 launch event was the Google Home Max, with Assistant baked in. The new smart speaker is 20 times more powerful than the original Google Home, and can work with Spotify, YouTube Music, apart from other music services. It has a new feature called Smart Sound that adjusts the sound to where you place the speaker in your home. Google Home Max will launch at $399 and will be released in December in the US, and will come with 12-month YouTube Red membership free.

Google Home is getting a new feature called Voice Match that allows Google Assistant to recognise your voice to provide personalised help to each member of the family. Voice Match will be released for the seven markets in which Google Home is available. The smart speaker is also getting hands-free calling. The speaker can control over 1,000 connected devices as well. Nest and Google are also collaborating to reimagine the smart home, to make more in tune with the needs of the user – with the Google Assistant at the centre of it all. There is also a new Family Link that allows parents to manage accounts they create for children under the age of 13. Assistant can understand the way kids speak as well now. Disney and Google are also partnering for content for kids as well, as part of the family-centric approach of the company.

The next hardware product unveiled at the Pixel 2 launch event is Pixelbook, a high-performance Chromebook. It is 10mm thick and weighs roughly 1 kilogram, and can be used as a tablet or in tent mode courtesy its 360-degree hinge. Google Pixelbook has a 12.3-inch display with Quad HD resolution and 235ppi pixel density, and supports up to 16GB RAM and up to 512GB SSD; buyers can choose between Core i5 and Core i7 processor options. It has a 10-hour battery, and uses USB Type-C charger; its Instant Tethering feature allows the Chromebook to automatically connect with the Internet connection of the user’s Pixel phone in the absence of a Wi-Fi connection.

Pixelbook is also the first laptop is the first laptop with Google Assistant built-in, and supports the new Pixelbook Pen that uses machine learning to understand the user. It will fully support Google Play Android app marketplace so all popular apps will be available on the convertible laptop. A custom Snapchat experience for the larger screen of the laptop is being developed. The laptop will be available in three configurations and price starts at $999, while the Pixelbook Pen price is $99. Pre-orders begin tonight, and shipping begins on October 31.

Google Clips, a tiny hands-free camera that looks for moments for you to capture photos, was also unveiled at the event. It is a $249 device that uses machine learning to sort photos and appears to be always-on.