Google Pixel And Google Home Attempt To Connect All Online-Offline Bases

While the addition of the iPhone-like Pixel seems like a lateral move, Google's new devices promise higher levels of personalization for voice-assisted search, virtual reality, artificial intelligence, IoT, and the connected home.

“Okay, Google, let’s connect local businesses to on-demand app platforms, and people whether on-the-go or in their home.”

That’s the kind of voice-assisted command that will power consumers who use any of the array of devices and tools Google unveiled during a developer event Tuesday afternoon.

While the kick-off product, Pixel, seems to be aimed at beating the iPhone 7 on battery life and image clarity (though Google executives also took shots at the iPhone 6’s protruding camera lens as well), the successive product previews served as a message consumers, businesses, and developers that Google is in the hardware business.

And specifically, Google’s hardware is all about anticipating and immediately responding to consumers’ needs via its existing voice-controlled assistant, and new devices that bring together virtual reality, the connected home, and external platforms like OpenTable’s reservations and Uber’s ride-hailing.

Google CEO Sundar Pichai
Google CEO Sundar Pichai

‘A personal Google, just for you’

The idea of personalizing the online and offline experiences driven by apps has had a profound influence on Google, Apple, Microsoft, and pretty much every consumer-facing software company. But by getting more serious about hardware, Google is making a bet that its ability to offer essential tools from search to email to YouTube will not scare off the electronic manufacturers like Samsung that run on Google’s Android system.

At the same time, Google doesn’t want to wait around for those partners to create the right experiences for its voice-assistant or any of its other offerings.

So Google is moving right ahead with Pixel, since the smartphone is the essential hub for people’s digital lives. It’s also the natural tie between all activities in and out of the home. Despite its interesting features, such as 7-hour battery life and quick, 15-minute full-charging abilities, the real news from Google’s presentation was its continued advancements in machine learning, voice-assisted search and Daydream View, a stylish, soft, and seemingly comfortable virtual reality headset that would appear leaps and bounds better than the relatively clunky VR products currently on the market.

As CEO Sundar Pichai put it in his opening remarks, Google’s goal is to create a “personal Google, just for you.”

“When Google was founded, there were about 300 million people using the internet,” Pichai said. The vast majority of them were sitting at desktop computers and looking for answers that came in the form of blue links. Today, the Internet community is closer to 3 billion people, and you’re searching for all kinds of help everywhere — from your cars and your classrooms, to your homes, to the phones in your pockets. Across all these contexts and devices, there are even more questions to be asked, and more that we can do to help you get the answers you need.”

The additional products like Google Home, the “smart” messaging app Allo, and Daydream View all fit together neatly — just as Google integrated its calendar into Google Maps on Android devices to seamlessly help users navigate to their daily appointments.

Making Dinner and Concert Plans with Google Assistant
Brian Rakowski, VP of product management: Making Dinner and Concert Plans with Google Assistant

The Possibilities For Online-Offline Engagement

While the VR features showed off bringing wearers to exotic locales to run with sheep or experience prehistoric creatures coming to “life” in a museum, one can imagine local businesses showing off their interiors and exteriors to attract shoppers to view store shelves, merchandise, or even pick a seat in a restaurant — all from their living room.

The presentation didn’t go into those kinds of details, however.

The closest example had Brian Rakowski, VP of product management, message his wife (it appeared that her phone number was revealed, as many observers tweeted during his presentation) about going to dinner before a concert. Google Assistant, which is built into Pixel and Google Home, was able to arrange it all — with help from Google Maps, OpenTable, and Uber, all in a few seconds, noted Scott Huffman, the company’s VP of engineering.

“Great hardware is powered by great software,” Pichai noted. “And a beautiful, intuitive device allows the underlying technology to shine. As the range of devices in our lives expands, we’re seeing unprecedented advances in software as a result of investing in technologies like search, machine learning and AI, which benefits things like translation, voice recognition, image recognition and natural language processing. It’s still early days, but when all of that works together, the Google Assistant allows you to get things done, bringing you the information you need, when you need it, wherever you are.”

About The Author
David Kaplan David Kaplan @davidakaplan

A New York City-based journalist for over 20 years, David Kaplan is managing editor of A former editor and reporter at AdExchanger, paidContent, Adweek and MediaPost.