How Did Google Pixel 8 Launch Impact the Tech Industry?

Google Pixel 8
The Independent
Google Pixel 8
(Image: The verge)

If you haven’t heard, Google’s newest products Google Pixel 8 are rife with artificial intelligence. There is Conversation Detection, an audio transparency feature powered by AI, Magic Editor, a photo editing tool powered by generative AI, and better heart rate algorithms, which are, yep, also powered by AI.

OS updates for seven years? Sounds like an excellent strategy to persuade Google to add more AI functionality and new features in photography All AI. processor tensor? It was made for AI, baby! “As always, our focus is on making AI more helpful for everyone, in a way that’s both bold and responsible,” said Rick Osterloh, Google’s hardware boss, in an introduction that, by my count, included the term “AI” more than a dozen times. Over 50 times throughout the hour-long event, Google’s presenters mentioned AI.

Google’s presenters said the phrase “AI” over fifty times during an hour-long event

AI was being used as a catchphrase to promote anything from toothbrushes to TVs as early as 2019. However, Google has aggressively positioned itself as a pioneer in the field of artificial intelligence in recent presentations. The instant popularity of OpenAI’s ChatGPT and the quickness with which rival Microsoft incorporated the new technology into its products, according to critics, took it off guard. However, Google runs the risk of overemphasizing the AI aspects of everything at the price of the practical features that its users will really utilize.

When Osterloh mentioned the first 2016 Pixel launch onstage and mentioned how much Google was concentrating on AI even then, he unintentionally provided an example of this. Osterloh observed, “Looking around the room here, I see a few people who were at our first Pixel launch seven years ago,” adding that at that time it had “explained that Pixel is designed to bring hardware and software together, with AI at the center, to deliver simple, fast, and smart experiences.”

However, I failed to hear anybody use the word “AI” onstage throughout Google’s 20-minute presentation on the original Pixel. Although there was a lengthy demonstration of Google Assistant voice control, a talk of computational photography, and even a prideful declaration that the phone was “made for mobile virtual reality,” there were surprisingly few explicit references to artificial intelligence.

Google Pixel 8 best picture
Image: The Times of India

Osterloh said that the initial Google Pixel was AI-powered, and I’m not claiming that he was lying, but the contrast shows how differently Google talks about its goods and services in 2023 compared to 2016. The Google of today would undoubtedly use the term “AI” at certain points during the initial Pixel announcement, such as when product manager Brian Rakowski spoke of the camera’s “incredible on-device software algorithms.” Google’s 2016 presentation, however, is more focused on the implications of these capabilities for prospective customers than it is on altering the public image of the company’s technical strength.

When contrasted to Apple’s presentations, in which the firm appears to purposefully avoid pronouncing the two magic letters, the disparity is even more pronounced. Apple still makes references to technologies that many other businesses would refer to as AI, although it does so much less frequently and uses the “sedate and technically accurate” term “machine learning”.

I don’t consider this to be a significant issue, generally speaking. As long as the heart rate algorithm in the Pixel Watch 2 is correct, who cares how it functions? No matter how much “AI” was used along the road, the photography output from the Pixel 8 will eventually have to speak for itself.

But there were also times throughout this week’s presentation when I wondered if some of the AI-powered capabilities that Google demonstrated were truly necessary. Google’s Sissie Hsiao demonstrated how Assistant with Bard could automatically produce a social media post to go up with a photo of Baxter the dog during a segment on the company’s new generative AI-powered virtual assistant.

It makes sense as a technical demonstration of generative AI. AI is getting better and better at identifying and characterizing pictures, and one of the biggest strengths of generative AI is writing in a certain style (especially one as cliché-filled as upbeat social media image captions).

However, if you disregard the AI component and consider this just as a smartphone function, I find it to be very perplexing. How did we get to the point where our social media postings may be written by our smartphones? What is the purpose? Why post the caption in the first place if you’re going to have a computer create it for you? Why are we in this place?

I have a notion that Google is throwing features at a wall and seeing what sticks because there isn’t a killer product for generative AI. It seems like Google is looking for nails with a hammer with the title “generative AI,” and this is leading the firm in strange directions. And that’s before we discuss the complicated effects of actually integrating generative AI into Google Photos.

The issue that arises from all of this is: Who is Google attempting to impress with all this talk of AI? Of course, having an “AI-powered smartphone” appeals to potential buyers in some way. It’s not by accident that ChatGPT became successful suddenly, and it’s obvious that there is interest in learning more about the AI hype.

But I don’t believe that’s the whole picture, not when you use the word “AI” more than once per minute and fifteen seconds, on average, during the introduction of a smartphone, and not when one of your main rivals, Apple, completely avoids using it.

If anything, it appears to be a reflection of Google’s fear of seeming to have fallen behind in the hoopla around AI. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella used the announcement that generative AI will be incorporated into Bing as a direct jab at Google. With our invention, Nadella hoped, “they will want to come out and show that they can dance.” “And I want everyone to know that we made them dance,” she continued. Google has since passionately tap-danced during each of its presentations.

For Pixel owners or prospective purchasers of Google’s hardware, none of this poses a concern. However, while Google may claim to be an AI firm, users just want phones with helpful functions. It runs the danger of putting the AI technology horse in front of the feature horse at some time.

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