Google Unveils New Products at Pixel Event 2022

During a press event in New York City, Google unveiled the new Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro devices, the brand-new Pixel Watch, and a teaser for a forthcoming 2023 Pixel Tablet. Although the devices are similar to those from last year, there seemed to be some welcomed improvements, like additional camera functions, a better screen and battery, and an upgraded Google Tensor processor.

Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro

With its 6.3-inch display, face recognition as an alternative unlocking method, and Google’s G2 Tensor processor, the Pixel 7 boasts enhanced AI-driven capabilities. These capabilities include the ability to see a menu while making a call, have emoji ideas suggested to you based on your voice, and have audio messages transcribed in Google’s Messages app.

The Pixel 7 new camera features include Cinematic Blur, Guided Frame via voice assistant for individuals who have limited vision, and a pretty neat feature called Photo Unblur, which effectively unblurs old photographs.

The Pixel 7 is available in three colors: obsidian, snow, and lemongrass. The device is available for preorder and has a starting price of $599.

The Pixel 7 Pro offers many of the same features included in the base model, with a few improvements over the display, weight, and battery life. Still, the camera is what significantly distinguishes the 7 Pro from the base model. The 30x telephoto lens on the Pixel 7 Pro works with cutting-edge software to provide clear images at all zoom levels. Additionally, the 7 Pro includes a Macro Focus feature that enables you to snap close-up pictures with HDR+ quality for detailed photos.

At its base price of $899, the Pixel 7 Pro is available in obsidian, snow, and hazel colors. Like the base Pixel 7, the Pixel 7 Pro is available for preorder.

Google Watch

The Google Pixel Watch comes with new health-tracking functions, such as a heart rate sensor, ECG monitoring, and sleep tracking, which keep with the current trend toward smartwatches and other wearable electronic devices.

The Pixel Watch starts at $349 for the WiFi-only device and $399 for the WiFi plus LTE model. Preorders for the watch are currently available.

Google Tablet

We didn’t receive much information on the Pixel Tablet because it won’t be available until 2023, but Google revealed some information.

The Pixel Tablet will function with a speaker dock that doubles as a charging station and will use the same G2 Tensor technology that drives the Pixel 7. Based on the fact that the Pixel Tablet is being marketed as a smart home manager and creative tool, we can probably expect some cool features to be announced before its release next year.

The Pixel 7, Pixel 7 Pro, and Pixel Watch’s improved AI-driven functionalities will certainly change the way we use our smart devices. Although the Google Pixel Tablet will not be available until 2023, there is no doubt that these new Google gadgets will cause a stir in the technological world.

Known Senders Option In Google Calendar Decreases Spam Invites

Recently, Google’s engineers introduced a small but important feature to their Calendar app.  If you haven’t used the “known senders” option, you owe it to yourself to check it out.

It allows you to toggle a setting that will filter out invites from people you don’t know, with an eye toward eliminating or drastically reducing instances of invites from people you don’t know automatically appearing in your calendar.

It’s a surprisingly good addition because prior to its inclusion, you had to jump through an annoying number of hoops to filter out unknown senders. This was done in a process which forced you to disable automatic event additions entirely, meaning that you had to respond manually to every invitation.

Google had been promising this fix since 2019 but time, circumstance, and recent events including the pandemic delayed its release significantly.  Its recent release received little fanfare and with everything going on, it would be no great surprise if you missed it.

It’s worth mentioning that the new setting won’t do anything to prevent you from receiving spam invitations, but they won’t land on your calendar, which is what most people are after.

It’s a small change but much more helpful than you might think. It is one of a multitude of recent improvements to a whole range of Google’s Workspace apps in recent months.

If you rely on Google Calendar to help keep yourself organized, you’re sure to love this feature.

Kudos to Google for continuing the hard work of continuous improvement with an eye toward an ever-better user experience.  It is work that often goes unnoticed and underappreciated but over the last few years, we’ve seen Google’s entire suite of productivity apps improve markedly. We can hardly wait to see what further improvements lie ahead.

Google Leaving IoT Services

Tech giant Google recently announced that it’s closing the doors on its IoT Core service.  Their stated reason for doing so was that their strategic partners can better manage customers’ IoT services and devices. Time will tell if the company’s decision was a good one.

Another tech giant, Microsoft, is wasting no time and is moving heavily in the opposite direction, adding to their suite of IoT services and offering increasingly tight integration with Azure. In recent years, Microsoft has bet big on IoT, and now has an impressive stable of offerings.

Microsoft’s offerings include but are not limited to:

  • The Azure IoT Hub, which serves as a central point of connection for IoT assets, allowing them to be more easily managed and monitored
  • Azure IoT Central, which gives users the capability of building edge solutions via Microsoft Tools
  • Azure Digital Twins, which models physical environments via “spatial intelligence”
  • Azure IoT Edge, which is a platform that brings analytics to edge-computing devices
  • Azure RTOS, which is a real time IoT platform
  • Windows 11 IoT and Windows 10 IoT core
  • And Azure Sphere, which is a Linux-based microcontroller OS platform

Microsoft is not alone in investing heavily in IoT services, however.  Amazon currently has a full suite comparable to what Microsoft is offering integrated with their highly popular and widely used AWS service. So even with Google pulling out of the space, consumers still have two strong and viable options to choose from.

The months ahead will be interesting indeed as the strategies these tech giants are pursuing begin to mature, creating ripple effects across the markets they serve.

For Microsoft’s part, it appears that CEO Satya Nadella’s recent statement that the company was interested in building an intelligent cloud/intelligent edge solution has changed somewhat. It is becoming an intelligent end-to-end distributed computing solution.

Fresh Look For Gmail Users Has Been Released

If you’re a Gmail user and you haven’t seen the change already, be aware that Google has freshened up their email interface.  Don’t expect a radical change, however.  This update is more of an evolution than a revolution.

Chiefly, you’ll notice that the Chat, Spaces, and Meet buttons have all been drawn closer together. This makes the left-hand sidebar of the email display look more cohesive.

At this point, it looks pretty much the same. However, Google has promised additional refinements in the months ahead, including better support for Gmail on tablets, more accessibility features, and better emoji support to name a few.

If the change has already been rolled out to you and you’re not a fan, you do have the option to switch back to the old view for now. That’s not a permanent situation.  Eventually, you’ll have to make peace with the new look.

If you want your old view back, the process is both simple and straightforward.  At the top right of your screen, click “Settings.”  Under “Quick Settings” you’ll see an option that says: “Go back to the original Gmail view.” Click that and then reload and you’ll be all set.

Also be aware that if you don’t use some of the apps listed on the sidebar, you can selectively disable the ones you don’t need, causing them to vanish from that view.

Change is hard and it is harder for some folks than others, but we like the approach Google is taking here.  Overall, we find these changes to be quite modest but we do agree that they make for a cleaner interface that offers a marginally improved user experience.

Kudos to Google for continuing to refine all their products.  We look forward to seeing what additional changes lie ahead.

Technology Advances With Speech-Recognition Via AI Technology

If you haven’t heard of the UK startup Speechmatics, it may come as a surprise to learn that the company may be on its way to becoming a globally recognized brand.

The company’s ambitious goal is to leapfrog over the progress made by America’s tech giants in speech recognition by using AI and machine learning.

If you own a Google Home device or have ever worked with Siri or Alexa, you are already familiar with the challenges associated with speech recognition.  The technology only works well for a tiny slice of the consuming public, with the tech giants focused firmly on their most valuable customers, naturally.

For everyone else, using speech recognition devices is a lesson in frustration. It can even be a problem  for some of the speakers for whom the tech has been optimized around, and it can still be frustrating.  If you doubt that, try sending a text message using just your voice.  It’s an uphill battle, even under ideal conditions.

Speechmatics raised eyebrows worldwide when they released a report which contained the following bit of information:

“Based on datasets used in Stanford’s ‘Racial Disparities in Speech Recognition’ study, Speechmatics recorded an overall accuracy of 82.8 percent for African American voices compared to Google (68.6 percent) and Amazon (68.6 percent). This level of accuracy equates to a 45 percent reduction in speech recognition errors – the equivalent of three words in an average sentence.”

That’s huge and game changing. That fact was one of the keys that enabled the tiny start up to secure more than sixty million USD in Series B funding.

So far, Speechmatic’s AI engine only understands 34 languages, which is a tiny slice of the more than 7,000 languages in use around the world. The company is absolutely determined though, and they’re aiming for the moon.

Their goal is functional speech recognition for everyone who speaks, planet wide, regardless of the language they’re using.  It’s a lofty goal, and we can hardly wait to chart their progress.