Last night, Google held a hardware event in San Francisco, where it officially unveiled its new Pixel brand – but the smartphones were far from the only announcements. The theme of the event was 'Made by Google': the name for a new 'family' of hardware products including Pixel, a 4K-enabled Chromecast Ultra and the Daydream View VR headset.
View is the first piece of hardware for Google's Daydream VR initiative, and is comprised of a fabric headset and a controller. Like the Cardboard, a smartphone is required to slot into the front of the headset – with the Pixel, naturally, being the first device to support Daydream – but promises a much more comfortable and sophisticated VR experience. Daydream View will cost $79 in the US, £69 in the UK.
The event also introduced Google Wifi, a connected wi-fi system building on the OnHub system it launched last year. Wifi uses mesh wi-fi technology to combine any number of hubs on a single network, improving connectivity across a home, rather than just in the area nearest to the router. Wifi can be controlled using an Android or iOS companion app which makes it possible to monitor connected devices and how much bandwidth each is using, and prioritise or suspend connectivity on each individually. Going on sale in the US next month, the hubs will be available for $129 each, or $299 for a pack of three.
While the focus was on hardware, Google also used the event to highlight a piece of software which will be tying all these devices together: Google Assistant.
Building on Google Now, this is a Siri-style AI virtual assistant promising "a natural conversation between you and Google", according to CEO Sundar Pichai. Having made its first appearance in the Allo messaging app introduced in May, Assistant will be introduced across Google's hardware. It will be built into the Pixel smartphone, as well as Google Home, the company's voice-activated smart home product intended to rival Amazon Echo, and Pichai hinted that Google is working with third parties to extend its reach to non-Google devices.
"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," said Pichai. "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."