Innovation

Google’s 3 most ambitious new devices aren’t smartphones

By Oliver Smith 5 October 2017
Image: ELIJAH NOUVELAGE/AFP/Getty Images.
Summary

The action isn't in your pocket anymore.

At a glitzy launch event last night Google unveiled its latest barrage of devices, part of its relentless mission to move into hardware and become the ‘new Apple’.

While there were decent smartphones (the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2XL, updates to the first Pixel which didn’t exactly set the world on fire)  and laptops (the Pixelbook, an overpriced Chromebook) none of that was particularly thrilling.

What is interesting is what’s going on outside of these ‘traditional’ form-factors, and that’s where Google made 3 ambitious new devices that we’re really excited about.

Read more: Google (still) wants to be the new Apple

Image: ELIJAH NOUVELAGE/AFP/Getty Images.

1. Pixel Buds – it’s translation time

Translation earbuds are one of the most exciting new trends in technology. Tiny earpieces which don’t just play music from your smartphone, but pack enough computing power to start deciphering what you’re saying and can translate it into another language.

We’ve seen Waverly Labs’ Pilot doing it, Mymanu’s Clik and even tried out real-time translation on Bragi’s Dash Pro.

Google is getting in on the action with its own wireless buds called Pixel Buds, which harness the power of Google Translate to translate between 40 languages in over 1,600 combinations.

It’s great to see Google getting into the ‘hearable’ space, now if only Apple would give its AirPods some smarts too…

Pixel Buds cost £159 and are available in November. But while they’ll work as Bluetooth earbuds with any iPhone or Android smartphone, the translation feature is exclusive to those with a Pixel phone.

Image: ELIJAH NOUVELAGE/AFP/Getty Images.

2. Google Clips – more snappy snaps

Sometimes pulling your camera out is a quick way to ruin a moment, leading to awkward smiles and uncomfortable poses, when all you wanted was a natural shot.

Enter the Google Clips camera.

This tiny camera is designed to be switched on, maybe at a birthday party or family occasion, and simply left on the side.

It’s smart enough to spot people, even recognise familiar faces, and capture photos and short videos when it thinks the time is right.

The idea is that at the end of the day you’ll be left with a collection of natural snaps, memories of what actually happened, rather than posed photos and awkward selfies.

It’s a fascinating idea, but we’ll have to wait and see whether Google’s vision of how Clips works will translate into reality.

Google Clips cost $249 each and is “coming soon”, with no UK launch date yet.

Image: ELIJAH NOUVELAGE/AFP/Getty Images.

3. Mini and Max – a growing family

While some sniggered at Amazon’s Echo speaker back in 2014, today practically every major technology company is working on its own take on the Echo and its Alexa assistant.

Google started with the Google Home last year – which didn’t hugely impress us with its built-in Google Assistant – and is today broadening the range, giving Home a bigger and smaller sibling.

The Home Mini costs just £49 (vs the Home at £129), but has far less powerful speakers compared to its larger brothers.

Speaking of, the Home Max takes everything you know about the Home and Home Mini and makes it… bigger.

Bigger speakers, bigger room-filling sound, and a bigger size to rival mid-range speakers from the likes of Sonos and Bose, but also a bigger price at $399 (no UK price or release date yet).

Besides hardware, Google also had some updates to Google Home’s abilities, including a rather delightful “Broadcast” feature that lets you push voice messages across every Home device.

Think “It’s time to get ready for school!” or “Dinner is ready!”, but without all the shouting.

That might be worth the price tag alone.