Google at its #MadeByGoogle event unveiled its hardware portfolio, the fruits of the newly-formed hardware division under Rick Osterloh, the former President of Motorola Mobility. Apart from the Pixel and Pixel XL smartphones, Google unveiled the Home smart speaker, the Daydream View VR headset and controller, the Google Wifi smart router, and Chromecast Ultra.
The Google Daydream View virtual reality headset and controller have been priced at $79 (roughly Rs. 5,300), and will go on sale in the US in November. The Google Home smart speaker, powered by Google Assistant, will be available for $129 (roughly Rs. 8,600) – it goes up for pre-orders on Tuesday, and will start shipping from November 4 with a 6-month subscription to the ad-free YouTube Red.
The Google Wifi router is priced at $129 (roughly Rs. 8,600), and will be available for pre-orders from November, and will ship in December in the US. A 3-pack of the router will cost $299 (roughly Rs. 19,900). The Chromecast Ultra, which now supports 4K video streaming, will be available in November for $69 (roughly Rs. 4,600).
The Google Home (seen below) smart speaker represents an important move in an intensifying battle between Google and other major tech players to establish the dominant “digital assistant.” Google Assistant, Amazon’s Alexa and Apple’s Siri are vying for supremacy as more people search the Web and make purchases online through voice commands, which may eventually supplant keyboards and touchscreens as the primary means of controlling some digital devices.
Google Home was described as a voice-based virtual assistant that lets people tap into the company’s online capabilities to answer questions, manage tasks, set up alarms and calendar events, control devices in homes, stream videos, audio casting, and more. Activated by the ‘Ok Google’ hotword, it acts as the centre of home automation, it connects to third-party IoT devices and platforms such as Next, Philips Hue, Samsung SmartThings, and IFTTT. It features a mic mute button, to reassure privacy conscious users it is not listening to you all the time. A Google Assistant SDK will be released later this year to help developers create compatible bots – for example, booking an Uber through the speaker.
Describing the audio capabilities, Google says the Home speaker features a three-speaker setup, alongside a dual passive radiator design for “crystal-clear highs and deep lows”. It also sports two omni-directional microphones and neural beamforming for hearing the user despite background noise and music. Apart from grouping several Home speakers across the house, the speaker can also be paired with Chromecast Audio and Cast-enabled speakers for multi-room support. The base will come in several colour variants and finishes, while the top portion remains the same, and features a capacitive touch surface to control it if required.
Coming to Google Wifi (seen below), the smart router uses mesh Wi-Fi technology to support modularity, letting users distribute several of the small routers across their home to ensure a widespread Wi-Fi network, instead of one single massive router for the purpose. The 3-pack is meant for users with a house larger than 1,500 square feet. It sports a LED light to show network status, an Ethernet port, and a USB Type-C port for power. It supports dual-band 5GHz Wi-Fi and AC1200 standards, with additional support for the Bluetooth Smart specification.
Google says the router uses machine learning-based Network Assist tech to let connected devices intelligently switch between one router to another, with a handoff time of less than 150 milliseconds. Everything about the router will be managed by a smartphone app for both Android and iOS, including administrator settings like parental controls and bandwidth prioritisation. Privacy and security features like verified boot and auto updates were also touted.
The Chromecast Ultra’s biggest USP is its support for 4K video streaming as well as HDR and Dolby Vision. The company is touting major Wi-Fi improvements that will let it load videos up to 1.8 faster than previous Chromecast dongles, and bears an Ethernet port if required. Chromecast Ultra (seen below) supports the new Google Home smart speaker hub, letting users control their TV via voice commands.
Finally, we come to Daydream View, the company’s first Daydream-ready headset and controller. The company says the headset is inspired by clothing, and features soft, breathable fabric that make it comfortable to wear and also 30 percent lighter than competing devices – it also works over spectacles. The headset is also hand-washable – a thoughtful addition considering the sweat and grime that can collect after hours of use. It will be available in Slate, Snow, and Crimson colours. Google says users just have to insert their Daydream-ready smartphones in the headset, and it takes care of alignment by itself.
As for the Daydream View controller (seen below), Google says the Bluetooth powered device can fit into the headset for easy storage, and features motion tracking sensors and a volume button. Apart from the US, the Daydream View headset will make its way to Canada, the UK, Australia, and Germany. Content partners such as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and J.K Rowling’s Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them were also announced, apart from MLB, NBA, Hulu, HBO, and Netflix.