Google made its name on its proprietary search tool. But at its annual developer conference Google I/O, CEO Sundar Pichai made it clear that the company wants to be more of an all-around solutions company.
“We’re moving from a company that helps you find answers to a company that helps you get things done,” said Pichai. “Simply, put our goal is to build a more helpful Google for everyone.”
The tech giant rolled out a number of new products and updates at Google I/O in Mountain View on Tuesday. Among its many announcements, Google introduced features that address privacy concerns, for which it has come under scrutiny, and a new lower-priced phone, an outlier of a product considering the rising cost of smartphones. Google said many of its new features are the result of integrating improved artificial intelligence with its software and hardware.
Here are the key products and services Google announced at this year’s conference.
Privacy and Security
Early on in the keynote, Pichai said addressing consumer data and privacy issues is a fundamental priority.
“We know our work on privacy and security is never done, and we want to do more to stay ahead of constantly evolving user expectations,” Pichai said.
Last week, the company rolled out a new setting on both the web and mobile app that gives users the choice of how long their data should remain in Google’s hands. Users can tell Google to automatically delete data after three months or 18 months, or keep the data in place until they manually delete it themselves. The company will extend the feature to location history in upcoming weeks.
Google also plans to extend incognito mode, which already makes it possible for users to wander the Internet via the Chrome browser without storing the history of websites they visited. In the coming weeks, people will be able to go incognito when using Google search and Google maps.
The company is also expanding privacy options on the latest Android operating system, called Q. People will be able to pick and choose which apps have access to location information. It also will notify users when an app they’re not using is still gathering location information.
Pichai said the commitment to privacy will include more transparency about the company’s practices. Google will publish privacy information about the way Google home products work, what data they collect, and how that data is used.
The New Pixel
Google introduced a new low-cost Pixel to address the rising cost of smartphones. With other companies introducing phones in the $1,000 to $2,000 price range, Google’s newest phones, the Pixel 3A and 3A XL, will start at $399. The 3A is half the cost of the high-end Pixel, but still offers a number of features, including a low-light picture setting, 3.5-millimeter audio jack, and up to 30 hours of battery life on a single charge.
Pichai said Google didn’t “compromise performance” with the new offerings, and that the company wanted to address the “troubling trend” of rising phone costs. The 3A is available in 13 markets and comes in three colors—black, white, and “purple-ish”—and is available to Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile, and U.S. Cellular users.
The 3A announcement comes after Google said poor Pixel sales dragged down the revenue of its hardware business in the first quarter.
Home Becomes Nest
Google’s doing some nesting around its house. The company will bring all of its home products under the branding of Nest, the company it acquired in 2014.
It also debuted a new model of Home Hub, now called the Nest Hub. The Nest Hub Max comes with a camera and 10-inch display that can be used for video message recordings, video calls, thermostat control, or to manage any Thread-supported devices like connected locks.
The new product was built for multiple users within a household. Nest Hub Max will be able to personalize its responses and data for each person.
The Nest Hub Max camera allows users to use Google Duo video calling and follows users to keep them in frame. It can even act as an in-house security system, sending users notifications when there’s motion in the house. The camera also recognizes a “stop” gesture, which will pause any media playing on the device.
Google said all data collected on the camera will be encrypted and never leaves the device. It also allows users to disable the microphone and camera with a switch on the back. When the camera is in use, a green light will display.
Pichai said that building “a more helpful Google” always starts with search, the company’s core product.
So later this year, search results will include a story timeline of the term that was searched and podcasts that can be directly played from the search page.
Google is also going to put on-device cameras to better use. Search now includes augmented reality, allowing users to get a 3D view of items and see them in their own space via AR. For example, using a camera and Google’s AR technology, a shopper could see how a pair of shoes matches with an outfit.
It also is expanding the use of its visual search tool, Lens. With Lens, users will be able to point their phone cameras at a restaurant menu to see the most popular items highlighted. Lens will also offer photos of the menu items and reviews of the dishes. The feature will also be able to read text out loud and translate text to other languages.
“The Next-Generation Assistant”
Google has compressed the size of its Google assistant from 100 gigabytes to .5 gigabytes, so that it can be used on mobile devices. The compression also eliminates network latency.
The new version of the assistant—dubbed “the next-generation assistant”—provides help 10 times faster than its previous version, Google said. This means that people who have the assistant on their mobile device can make several requests in a row and receive an almost-instant response. And users won’t have to say “hey, Google” before each request.
Responding to user request, Google now allows alarms to be shut off with the voice command “stop.” No, “hey google,” needed. The feature is rolling out on smart displays and home devices starting today.
The new assistant works across apps, allowing users to send a text, order a Lyft, or find specific photos using voice commands alone. On email, the new assistant can determine when words should be dictated or are meant as commands, like “change the subject line.”
The updated assistant will be available on Waze, Google’s GPS navigation app, within the next few weeks, and on Pixel phones later this year
Maps and Duplex
Google also used the conference to announce improvements in its maps and artificial intelligence system for the web.
To help with mundane tasks like filling in personal information to make a reservation, Google has developed Duplex for web. The AI system will work with the web to help people book cars, call restaurants to reserve tables, and buy movie tickets by automatically supplying customer information and making suggestions based on user preferences. Users will have a chance to look over Duplex’s selections before the service buys any tickets or makes other plans.
Google said its still collecting feedback from users and businesses and will share more details later this year.
On Maps, Google is changing its navigation to integrate AR. So instead of following a glowing blue dot, which is the current way Google navigates, people will follow AR arrows visible via the street view on the maps.
The new Maps AR navigation became available today on Pixel phones.