A clean slate

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Front Page - By Margi Mur­phy in New York

Rick Oster­loh, se­nior vice-pres­i­dent of hard­ware at Google, dis­cusses the new Google Pixel Slate tablet dur­ing a prod­uct re­lease event in New York yes­ter­day. Two new Pixel phones will go on sale on Oc­to­ber 18 start­ing at £739.

GOOGLE has launched two phones that an­swer calls on be­half of the owner in tricky sit­u­a­tions as it con­tin­ues its mis­sion of plac­ing pow­er­ful ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence in the pock­ets of con­sumers around the world.

The new hand­sets, the Google Pixel 3 and Google Pixel 3 XL, fea­ture dif­fer­ent screen sizes and prices to ri­val the line-up for Sam­sung – Google’s main An­droid con­tender.

Both fea­ture Google As­sis­tant, a voice-ac­ti­vated AI that helps an­swer ques­tions and can now screen ir­ri­tat­ing calls from tele­mar­keters. When a mys­tery num­ber calls, it will of­fer an op­tion to “screen” to find out who is on the other side of the line and of­fers a menu of re­sponses such as “I’ll call you back later” or to mark it as spam.

The phones also fea­ture Google’s con­tro­ver­sial tool “Du­plex”, which calls restau­rant to make a book­ings in a hu­man-like voice when the owner is pressed for time. It raised eth­i­cal ques­tions when it was an­nounced ear­lier this year, but both au­to­mated phone fea­tures will be avail­able on Amer­i­can hand­sets be­fore rolling out to the UK.

The two phones, which will ship on Novem­ber 1, are suc­ces­sors to the crit­i­cally ac­claimed Google Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL. Both were praised for their ma­chine learn­ing-led cam­eras.

Up­dates in­clude night mode – which au­to­mat­i­cally de­tects colours in low light­ing, cre­at­ing vivid pic­tures in the dark with­out flash – and im­proved zoom and au­to­matic smile de­tect.

The 6.3in-screen Pixel 3 XL will cost up to £969 for the 128GB ver­sion and is avail­able on a con­tract with UK net­work Three. The Pixel 3, with a 5.5in screen, will cost up to £839. Both are con­sid­er­ably less than the iPhone XS Max, which took the record as the most ex­pen­sive of its kind last month with a top price of £1,449.

Google’s new smart home prod­ucts have been priced af­ford­ably in com­par­i­son to Ama­zon and Ap­ple, a clear in­di­ca­tion that it wants to get into homes quickly to chal­lenge the in­cum­bents.

This in­cludes the Google Pixel Stand, a £69 charg­ing stand that turns the phone into a bed­side alarm clock. The new home as­sis­tant with a screen, the Google Home Hub, at £139 is aimed at novice cooks with a range of tu­to­ri­als on YouTube and mul­ti­ple timers. Dur­ing the key­note, Google ap­peared to take a jab at Ama­zon, claim­ing that it de­cided not to add a cam­era to the hub “so peo­ple feel com­fort­able”.

Sus­pi­cions sur­round­ing tech­nol­ogy com­pa­nies putting cam­eras in homes has reached fever pitch, par­tic­u­larly with re­gards to AI.

Google’s Rick Oster­loh em­pha­sised that us­ing peo­ple’s data to im­prove prod­ucts was key and Google’s strat­egy fo­cused on “AI, soft­ware and hard­ware work­ing to­gether”.

Ge­off Blaber, an an­a­lyst at CCS In­sight, said: “Google has done a good job pre­sent­ing AI as an en­abler as op­posed to a tech­nol­ogy that threat­ens all our jobs, but the in­dus­try at large is un­der­stand­ing there is a role to play around build­ing its per­cep­tion”.

Se­cu­rity was a run­ning theme through­out the hour-log key­note in New York, a day after it emerged Google had known its cus­tomers’ in­for­ma­tion was ex­posed to out­siders for three years and didn’t dis­close it un­til a re­port in The Wall Street Jour­nal.

Google has closed the leaky web­site, called Google +, its at­tempt at cre­at­ing a so­cial net­work to ri­val Face­book.

A mem­ber of staff shows the new Google Pixel 3 to a guest at a Lon­don launch yes­ter­day

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