Google announces first smartphone Pixel – as it happened

Google launches iPhone rival emphasising Google Assistant as well as Daydream VR, Home smart speaker and more at live event

Pixel phone by Google

Scott out, Rick back in. “We’re committed to building hardware, and this is only the beginning.”

And with that, the livestream and liveblog are over.

Rishi out, Scott in. Scott’s talking about Google Assistant some more, and how it works with external partners.

“The Google Assistant will be Google’s next thriving, open ecosystem”, Scott says. Developers can build “actions on Google” (which seem like Skills on the Echo): either they’re direct actions, or conversations.

Rishi continues. Fourth area: home control. If you have a smart home (you probably do not have a smart home) you can control it with your voice. Not only Google’s sibling company Nest, but also a few other companies, like Philips.

But the definition of “smart home” has grown: you can also use Google Assistant to control your Chromecast. Apparently it can “completely change how you watch television”. I doubt that, but OK. You can control YouTube, but “soon” you’ll be able to control Netflix, and you can ask the Google Home to show your pics in Google Photos on your Chromecast.

And finally, Google Home. It’s a little cylinder that brings Google Assistant into your home. It has speakers that lets you play music, and has a lot of mics that offer “best in class voice recognition”. It’s … look, it’s the Amazon Echo.

Entertainment next: Remember Chromecast, the company’s dongle for letting you watch stuff on your TV. There’s a new one! Chromecast Ultra.

Clay out, Mario in. We’re going to hear about Google Home.

Adrienne out, Clay in. It costs $79. Thanks Clay.

Clay out, Adrienne in. She leads VR partnerships, and will be showing some Daydream ‘experiences’.

There’s a Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them experience, which is going to sell a few thousand Daydream headsets on its own. If you’re over 30 that’s the Harry Potter prequel.

It’s pretty simple: “You just want to pop your phone in and get into VR”. The headset and phone speak wirelessly, and the headset has an auto-calibration feature.

There’s a controller too. A clickable touchpad at the top, two buttons in the middle, and a bunch of motion-sensitive sensors inside. But: “what do you do with a controller after you use it? You lose it. So the controller has a home inside the headset.”

Sabrina out. Clay in! He runs VR. “We love VR,” he says, “because unlike anything else we’ve seen, it can put you someplace else”. Given Google literally makes a car, I think he might have picked the wrong metaphor there.

Clay Bavor is talking Daydream, Google’s new VR platform. “Let’s start with phones: we’ve made the Pixels great for VR. They’re the first that are ‘Daydream ready’”.

Brian, out. Sabrina Ellis in!

Sabrina’s here to talk about a lot of stuff.

Next, Brian talks us through the camera. “Pixel received the highest rating ever for a smartphone” from industry group DXOMark – 89 compared to the iPhone 7’s 86. That’s doubly impressive given, you know, no camera nubbin.

Brian Rakowski from Google steps in to talk us through the Pixel. Hi Brian!

First up, Assistant: “You can just say the hot-word, or press and hold the home button, to bring it up.” He asks it to show his photos from last October, and sees a picture of a show he went to last year. That prompts him to ask what’s happening at that venue now, and he sees the band The Lumineers. So he asks it to play a song from them too, and a YouTube video pops up.

After a pre-amble about how great phones are, Rick says he’s “very excited to introduce you to a new phone made by Google. We call it Pixel.”

A new challenger enters! Google’s Rick Osterloh takes over from Sundar. He’s the company’s head of hardware, a new job created for him. Before that, he came in with Motorola when Google bought that company.

(If you’d forgotten the Motorola acquisition, that was the second time Google tried to announce that it was “making its own phones”. The first was the Nexus line, and we’re expecting the third today.)

“It’s important to get the Assistant in the hands of users,” Sundar says, “and indeed, we did that two weeks ago, with the launch of Allo”. Now, he says, we’re seeing it in two new surfaces. One, your phone, and two, your home.

(So we’re probably about to see the Pixel and Home, as expected)

After a short video, Pichai’s back, showing off Google’s hefty machine learning expertise. He’s showing off image captioning, machine translation, and even DeepMind’s success at playing the ancient asian boardgame of Go.

Image captioning has been getting steadily better, he says, and that helps Google Photos.

And we’re off. Sundar Pichai, Google’s CEO, is warming us up with a discussion of the Google Assistant.

“It’s clear we’re moving from a mobile first to an AI-first world”, he says. “The assistant will be universal, available when the users need it. And our goal is to build a personal Google for each user.”

More from the Bloomberg story on the Pixel:

The phones feature cameras that can snap photos quicker than the blink of an eye, app speeds once reserved for laptops and battery life that bests last year’s non-Google made Nexus phones. [Senior vice president Rick] Osterloh proudly showed how one can twist the phone mid-air to activate the selfie-camera. “That’s pretty cool,” he says. Also notable is a fingerprint scanner that doubles as a trackpad (other Android phone makers will get to enable this, too) and software-enhanced gyroscopes that reduce shakiness in recorded video, stabilization that Osterloh calls “out of this world good.”

With twelve minutes to go until the event, Bloomberg News has rather spoiled the surprise. Or, at least, part of it. The site was given a behind-the-scenes preview of the launch, so yes, the Pixel is a dead certainty.

Alphabet Inc.’s Google on Tuesday unveiled the Pixel and larger Pixel XL, the first phones that were conceptualized, designed, engineered and tested in-house. The Pixel phones feature a Siri-like virtual assistant, flashy camera features and are the first to boast Android’s new Nougat 7.1 operating system. Their debut signals Google’s push into the $400 billion smartphone hardware business and shows that the company is willing to risk alienating partners like Samsung Electronics Co. and LG Electronics Inc. that sell Android-based phones.

It’s 15 minutes until the event even starts, but thanks to the copious quantity of leaks, it feels like we already know what’s about to happen. So is it too early to draw some conclusions? Probably, but analysts have got in touch anyway.

Forrester’s Julie Ask is interested in the expected launch of Google Home, the competitor to the Amazon Echo and the company’s first entry in to the smart speaker arena:

Google faces an uphill battle to succeed with Google Home or Allo because it does not have a strong track record of selling much of anything direct to consumers at scale. Yes, Google sold some consumer electronics with a few of its own phones and Glass. Yes, Google has a delivery business for local goods. (And, it will definitely be interesting to watch if Google looks to use Amazon as a distribution channel). But Google also doesn’t have near the track record for mobile instant messaging that companies like Facebook and WeChat have. Platforms like Allo become essential when they have hundreds of millions of daily active users. The year 2016 is late to be starting with 0.

Like Amazon Echo and British Gas’ Hive, Google is entering the increasingly competitive market of connected devices in the home. At Salmon we believe that Programmatic Commerce will change the retailing industry and enable customers to benefit from the automated ordering of goods by smart devices. Our recent research found that 57% of consumers will be ready for automated shopping through smart devices within the next two years.

Simple enough: you can watch the event live on YouTube.

If that’s not good enough, you can even watch it right here.

Google’s event begins at 5pm UK time, and thanks to some fairly wide-ranging leaks, we have a good idea of what to expect.

Leading the event is the Pixel phone, Google’s first in-house smartphone. It’s expected to be pitched as a direct competitor to the iPhone, right down to having the same basic design. Even the large (dated) bezels of the iPhones 7 appear to have been carried over intact.

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