Google Pixel, Dreamcast and Google Home lay the foundation for a future Made by Google
I am in awe of the ease with which Google can change the course of entire industries – with a series of announcements. In the case of consumer VR it was delivered in a goodie bag full of die-cut cardboard and a couple of lens.
Today it appears to have happened again with Google’s large step into the branded hardware market. In fact, “step” isn’t even the right word – “stomp” is more appropriate – with the entry of the Made By Google brand mark potentially blocking if not decimating frenemy and foe alike.
The displacement caused by the Made by Google wave is likely to be considerable, with the Google Pixel mobile phone replacing the Nexus brand, the Daydream VR headset entering the market with an arguably improved aesthetic and lower price point than the Samsung Gear, and Google Home stepping into the previously Amazon Echo-dominated home automation market.
It’s interesting that the three products have been widely reported as separate new items. While each clearly has merits in its own right, the potential synergies between the products and how they might play together down the track makes this feel like much more than a series of individual product releases.
In fact, they feel more like the components of an emerging full home ecosystem – stepping stone technologies that get the devices into hand and home; and ultimately form a wraparound home management, education and gaming platform. They may not be there yet but it pays to remember that Google is the consummate agile organism, releasing data-gathering MVPs and learning from its devices about the way people like to use them.
Each product is a case in point. Consider this…
Google Pixel – the likely adolescent lovechild of Project Ara (Google’s modular phone initiative), the $12.5 billion acquisition of Motorola and the ongoing partnership with Samsung. Fast, clever and sassy, Pixel comes complete with Google Assistant. This gives the phone an intelligent assistant that brings with it all of the accumulated knowledge of natural language understanding that it has learnt from billions of verbal Google searches and from Google’s ongoing development of SyntaxNet, Google’s open source Syntactic Parser. It adds a new meaning to “smartphone”.
Then there’s Daydream View – This VR headset that is made of more flexible material – possibly a learning from Google’s dalliance with Cardboard – and comes with a wand-like controller that has a number of gaming uses. A wand device also has the capacity to move the viewer through space, an ongoing challenge to the more powerful tethered VR systems. Over time, this controller could provide the UX insights required for the development of Google’s own version of the HTC Vive controller.
The only key element missing from a space-aware VR environment is the base station set like those used by HTC’s Vive system that defines the extremities of a physical space and track people within it.
But wait! There’s Google Home – With voice activation and the blossoming intelligence of Google Assistant, Home has the capacity to learn how we interact with our physical environment. Home also has the capacity to collect and process information from a range of sensors and devices such as lights, appliances and other devices that collect environmental data.
Google’s purchase of Nest gives it a ready supply of sensors, thermostats and switches that control things in the physical space – and connects them to the web. Surely it isn’t a huge leap to imagine these devices and the information they produce being able to map a room, a house or, with a bit of help from Google Maps, a much larger space. Whammo – there’s your base stations.
Not only that, as the Tech Republic points out in their Google hardware review, Google Assistant is multi-device, so Google Assistant in Google Home can share helpful insights to make our lives easier with its Pixel incarnation – and presumably any other incarnations of Google Assistant that become active in other Google devices over time.
An upgrade to Chromecast, and a new, more powerful router complete the current picture. But I sense that the current picture will change swiftly.
Sure – each product has genuine benefits that will undoubtedly change the shape of its respective sector. But the real genius lies in what might potentially happen when they all come together and it seems that the necessary elements are present to bring something truly amazing to life. I can’t help the feeling that this is the foundation for a platform that will ultimately usurp the emerging tech of at least two other technology players.
In the process it has the potential to change the smart home and mobile sectors forever and also popularise a whole new way to experience education, entertainment and AR/VR gaming.
(image credit: Google)