At Google’s annual developer conference, the company promised to be bold with its use of AI but also responsible.
Google I/O was held near the company’s headquarters in Mountain View, California. It’s the first time in four years the company has held a large in-person event.
The focus this year was all about AI, but there were some hardware announcements, too.
CEO Sundar Pichai kicked off the event by saying the company is “reimagining all of our core products, including search” with a bold and responsible approach.
The company then proceeded to show off an example of an AI tool that could be used for good or bad.
It’s called Universal Translator and it can take a video of someone speaking and translate it into a different language, complete with synced lip movements. It was quite remarkable and makes you realize that we won’t be able to believe our eyes in the near future.
Because of the potential for eerily realistic deepfakes, Google says they are only letting trusted partners use the technology.
Gmail is getting a new AI feature called “Help Me Write.” This can use the context of a previous email to help you draft a new one. Instead of autocompleting just one sentence, this tool writes the entire email from start to finish.
In Maps, Google showed off a new “Immersive View for Routes” that lets you preview a route in an entirely new way. Think of it as a flyover or bird eye view, but animated.
Google Photos is getting a new “Magic Editor” feature so you can use AI to change just about any aspect of a photo. Remove objects, clean up the sky and even move entire subjects around. AI will fill in any missing aspect of the photo.
Android is getting a new feature that lets you use AI to generate creative and unique wallpapers on the fly, just by describing the type of picture you want.
As for new hardware, Google unveiled three main gadgets: an inexpensive Pixel phone, a Pixel tablet and a foldable Pixel phone.
The Pixel 7a is a $499 smartphone that punches above its price tag. This will likely be my new favorite budget phone recommendation for 2023. It has everything you need including a faster screen refresh rate (something the 6a didn’t have), Face Unlock, wireless charging and a great camera. You just don’t get a dedicated telephoto zoom lens.
A new Pixel Tablet is nice but a tougher sell since the iPad is still tops when it comes to tablets and apps. But Google has done some nice things here by including a wireless charging dock so the tablet doubles as a picture frame when you’re not using it and it’s always charged when you need it.
“Pixel Tablet is much more helpful for folks in the place where it matters most in their home,” explained product manager Ben Janofsky.
The Pixel Tablet is $500 including the dock.
The Pixel Fold is a bit more interesting. It’s a mix of a phone and a tablet, and Google did their homework here, making a device that’s quite appealing.
In my limited hands-on time, the Pixel Fold seems like a well thought out device. The outside screen is large enough to be usable, and the device is super easy to hold in one hand.
It has Pixel quality cameras built in, which means you’re not going to be sacrificing amazing pictures for a cutting-edge design.
I could actually see myself giving the Fold a try because I love the idea of a phone and tablet that fits nicely in my pocket.
The problem is, it’s $1,800, which is a hefty price tag for an unproven product, and Google has a mixed track record with their products, although they do seem invested in the Pixel lineup.
“The versatility that the device brings especially with this type of emerging form factor. It really does blend that in and give you a lot of opportunities and a lot of new ways to be creative,” said product manager George Hwang.