Google set to launch branded smartphones

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Google will this week launch the first smartphones that carry its own brand and design, as part of a batch of new devices aimed at competing in markets with Apple and Amazon. The new gadgets, which will include a voice-responsive "smart speaker" modeled on Amazon's Echo, are the first products of a new hardware division set up earlier this year. Google has in the past mainly developed hardware to show off its software and services and to encourage other consumer tech companies to create a mass market for the technology. But like Microsoft, whose Surface has become the leading product in a new category of tablet/laptop hybrids, Google has been drawn deeper into developing its own distinctive products. The new devices are about Google "owning more of the hardware category", said Jan Dawson, senior analyst at Jackdaw Research, though the main impetus will still be "about showing partners the way forward".


AI, conversational interfaces, and VR: Google goes on the offensive

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This week, a lot of attention was given during the kick-off of the annual Google I/O conference to three of this year's key technologies: artificial intelligence, conversational interfaces and virtual reality. The attractive force of Google's technologies was in full display with the opening viewed by more than 1 million users in China alone. Google's CEO, Sundar Pichai, kicked it off by demonstrating that Google had not missed out on the shift to mobile and that 50% of all search engine queries were already today made from phones, including 20% through voice recognition in the United States. Already, the results of a mobile study that were unveiled extend beyond a simple list of links to include "cards" used to preview related content (photos, results, artists) without having to exit the search engine. The head of Google went on to highlight his company's progress with respect to artificial intelligence and concrete applications for search engines.


Google moves into hardware production with smartphone and other devices

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Software giant Google is beginning an aggressive foray into hardware production with the launch Tuesday of a smartphone and other devices that will bring the company into direct competition with other leading tech firms, including its longtime partner Samsung. The launch signals a major shift for one of the world's most profitable companies as it seeks to adapt to a technology landscape increasingly dominated by mobile and other connected hardware. Google must find a way, analysts say, to keep acquiring user data for targeting ads as Web search -- traditionally done from laptop or desktop computers -- is supplanted by newer technologies. Google's new smartphone, the Pixel, will employ artificial-intelligence technology that users can converse with, allowing them to sidestep keyboards as they access online information and make purchases such as movie tickets, say people familiar with the company's plans who spoke on the condition of anonymity to reveal information ahead of its official release. The company also plans to release other new hardware, including a voice-based assistant for the home to rival Amazon's Echo and a virtual-reality headset to rival Facebook's Oculus.


Everything Google announced at its 2017 I/O conference

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During a non-stop, two-hour keynote address at its annual I/O developers conference, Google unveiled a barrage of new products and updates. Here's a rundown of the most important things discussed: Google CEO Sundar Pichai kicked off the keynote by unveiling a new computer-vision system coming soon to Google Assistant. Apparently, as Pichai explained, you'll be able to point your phone's camera at something, and the phone will understand what it's seeing. Pichai gave examples of the system recognizing a flower, a series of restaurants on a street in New York (and automatically pulling in their ratings and information from Google), and the network name and password for a wifi router from the back of the router itself--the phone then automatically connecting to the network. Theoretically, in the future, you'll be searching the world not through text or your voice, but by pointing your camera at things.


Google takes on rivals with Pixel phone, new hardware

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Google took on rivals Apple, Samsung and Amazon in a new push into hardware Tuesday, launching premium-priced Pixel smartphones and a slew of other devices showcasing artificial intelligence prowess. The unveiling of Google's in-house designed phone came as part of an expanded hardware move by the US company, which also revealed details about its new "home assistant" virtual reality headset and Wi-Fi router system. The San Francisco event marked a shift in strategy for Google, which is undertaking a major drive to make Google Assistant artificial intelligence a futuristic force spanning all kinds of internet-linked devices. "We are evolving from a mobile-first world to an AI-first world," Google chief executive Sundar Pichai said. "Our goal is to build a personal Google for each and every user."