- Google opened its I/O developer event today, where it unveiled a new cheaper Pixel, more details around Android Q, and a new smart home device called the Nest Hub Max, among other announcements.
- The company also detailed its upcoming AI projects and revealed a faster, smarter version of the Google Assistant.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Google just kicked off its annual Google I/O conference with its opening keynote, during which it made a myriad of announcements including a new low-cost Pixel phone, details around Android Q, a new smart screen called the Nest Hub Max, and updates to Google Lens among other news.
As expected, topics such as privacy and artificial intelligence were major themes during the conference, with Google executives consistently reiterating the privacy features built into its products.
See below for an overview of everything Google announced, and watch the full event below.
This story is developing. Please check back for the latest.
Google Pixel 3a
Google unveiled the long-rumoured Pixel 3a during the event, which is a cheaper version of its flagship smartphone that starts at $US399. It has a camera that’s very similar to the Pixel 3 and supports features like the Night Sight low-light shooting mode and Portrait Mode. The overall design is also very similar to Google’s pricier Pixel phones.
Unlike the company’s more expensive devices, the Pixel 3a and the larger Pixel 3a XL do not support facial recognition or wireless charging.
The phones are launching with most major U.S. carriers, including Verizon, Spring, and T-Mobile, and will be in-store starting May 8.
In typical Google fashion, the company walked attendees through Android Q, the next major iteration of its mobile operating system. Google showcased a number of features coming to the software, including how it will be optimised to support foldable phones and its new Dark Mode feature.
Privacy controls will also be more accessible in Android Q, like activity controls and location and ad settings. Android Q will also provide reminders when an app is actively using your location and will also give the user more control over how they want to share their location with apps.
Screen time management is also a big theme in Android Q. The software will include a new Focus Mode that will let you temporarily disable those apps that you find distracting. This feature will launch for phones running on Android Q and Android P this fall.
Parental Controls will be built right into the settings of Android Q as well. You’ll be able to impose daily screen time limits, view app time, and set a bedtime. You’ll also be able to set time limits on specific apps, and provide bonus time if you want to give your child a few more minutes of usage.
Security updates will also be pushed out faster in the form of over-the-air updates in Android Q, similarly to the way apps update seamlessly in the background.
Nest Hub Max
Google announced a new version of its Home Hub smart speaker, called the Nest Hub Max. The company is also re-branding all of its smart home products under the Nest line.
The new Nest Hub Max will cost $US229 when it launches later this summer. The device has a 10-inch screen and, unlike its predecessor, will have a built-in camera. This camera can be used for home surveillance, and users will also be able to train it to recognise their faces so that the Google Assistant can personalise the information it displays.
The company was also quick to point out that there’s a switch on the back that shuts off the microphone and camera.
A new and improved Google Assistant
Google is launching a next-generation version of the Google Assistant for Pixel phones later this year that’s faster and smarter, the company announced. Google was able to shrink 100GB machine learning models down to 0.5GB, which enables it to provide information much more quickly.
The company showed this in a demo during which an employee asked rapid fire questions that included launching apps and setting timers among other tasks. The employee was able to respond to a text message using the Google Assistant without even having to say the trigger phrase.
Another new feature on the Google Assistant will be Pick For You, a capability that can personalise answers to requests, like recipes you might enjoy, by taking your previous questions into account.
Personal References is another new Assistant feature that uses information you’ve shared with it to offer more intelligent answers. If you’ve shared your mother’s address with Google, for example, you can ask the digital helper what the weather is like near your mother’s house without having to get more specific.
The new Drive Mode coming to the Google Assistant this summer will surface useful information on your Android phone while you’re driving. This could include a reminder to finish listening to a podcast you started this morning, for example.
Updates to Google’s AI research and techniques
Google discussed how its working to eliminate bias in artificial intelligence through its TCAV research approach, which stands for “testing with concept activation vectors.” This approach is designed to help spot bias early on in the process of developing new algorithms.
For example, it would be able to tell if a model trained to spot photos of doctors mistakenly determined that being male was a necessary quality to identify doctors.
If this research approach proves successful, it could provide a solution to what has historically been one of the most daunting challenges facing artificial intelligence research. There are dozens of examples showing what can happen when AI systems are biased – one of them being a recruiting tool Amazon reportedly developed and then scrapped because it was biased against women, as Reuters reported.
Google is also using a new technique called Federated Learning, which allows it to improve its products without gathering additional personal data. Using federated learning, for instance, Google’s Gboard keyboard could learn new words without having to know what you’re specifically typing. That too could be critical as companies like Google and Facebook have come under increased scrutiny regarding user privacy and data collection policies.
Google Lens updates
Google also announced several new features to its Lens app, which uses a smartphone’s camera to display information about the real world around you.
Google Lens will now be able to do things like highlight the most popular item on a restaurant menu when you point your phone’s camera at the menu. Similarly, it can split the bill and calculate the tip if you point it at the check.
The company is working with magazine publishers, museums, and retailers to add even more functionality to Google Lens. In one example, it showed how holding a smartphone camera over a recipe in a cooking magazine brings the image to life.
Duplex on the web
Google is updating its Duplex tool to help you automatically accomplish tasks like booking a rental car and buying movie tickets.
Duplex can now automatically enter details for you, such as the duration of your trip and your vehicle preferences, to automatically complete the booking process for you. Google first unveiled the voice version of Duplex last year, which can call a restaurant to make a reservation on your behalf.
Google showcased a few new accessibility-focused features during I/O, such as Live Relay, which allows Google to answer calls and recite your typed reply during the conversation. The company says this feature runs on the device, not in the cloud, so your phone calls will be kept private.
Google also debuted Live Caption, which as its name implies can provide captions for videos and podcasts instantly across what it promises are most Android apps.
As part of its Project Euphonia initiative, Google has partnered with the ALS Therapy Development Institute and ALS Residence Initiative to record the voices of people living with the disease to help them communicate using their phones.
Privacy was a major focus for Google during this year’s keynote, as it announced several new features aimed at helping users manage their accounts and the information they share.
In Google apps like Drive, Gmail, Pay, and Contacts, you’ll be able to access privacy controls just by tapping your profile photo displayed in the top right corner of your screen. Other Google products like Search, Maps, Assistant, YouTube, Chrome, and News will get this update this month.
Google is also launching an Incognito Mode for apps like Maps, YouTube, and Search, and the ability to set a limit on the amount of time Google retains your web and app activity is now available. You’ll be able to do this for location history starting next month too.
Augmented reality in Google Search
Google has also announced that 3D models will be accessible from Google Search, and you’ll be able to view them in augmented reality straight from the results. If you’re doing research on a great white shark for a school project, for example, you’ll be able to view a life-sized 3D model of the animal in augmented reality.
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.