The new Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL phones, the Pixelbook high-end Chromebook, and the two new Google Home speakers were the headliners at Google's hardware event today. However, the company also released Clips, its spin on an AI-powered hands-free camera, a new set of language-translating in-ear headphones called Pixel Buds, and a new Daydream View head mount for press-ganging a smartphone into VR duty.
Google says its Clips hands-free camera is designed to be set down on a coffee table or a similar surface while children, pets, or a combination thereof are playing, in order to capture special moments without the need for someone to be behind the lens. To design the Clips, the company says used everything it learned about image recognition through its core internet search business to allow parents and pet owners to get spontaneous shots without the need for someone to sit on the sidelines as a photo- or videographer.
Clips uses its AI brains to recognize clear, stable shots of known individuals and records short moments of video, which Google calls "clips," to no-one's surprise. The clips are then synchronized over Wi-Fi directly to an app on a corresponding Android or iOS device for curation, and the results can be sent to Google Photos for safekeeping. Google Photos users can store unlimited clips for no charge.
As far as specs go, Clips has a 12 MP sensor staring unblinkingly out at the world through an f/2.4 lens with a 130° field of view. Images are taken in 15 FPS bursts and stored locally in 8 GB of non-expandable storage. According to The Verge, the onboard storage was plenty for two days of use and the internal battery had enough power for Clips to sit several days on standby. The image recognition takes place on Intel's Movidius Myriad 2 video processing unit. Intel says that on-device processing reduces power consumption and bandwidth utilization compared to cloud-based image recognition, and allows Clips to work without internet access. The Myriad 2 chip boasts pose estimation, 3D depth-sensing, visual inertial odometry, and gesture and eye-tracking capabilities.
There's a shutter button for taking snapshots, but that functionality definitely plays second fiddle to the machine-learning magic. Clips does not have a microphone. Interested videographers will need a Pixel phone, one of Samsung's Galaxy S7 or S8 Android handsets, or an iPhone 6 or newer, though Google says Clips will work with more phones in the future.
The company also showed off the Pixel Buds, a set of wireless earbuds tethered to one another with a short braided cable sporting a bunch of Star Trek-style features. The Pixel Buds offer gesture controls like swiping or tapping to field calls, change tracks, and adjust the volume. Touching the right earbud will also activate Google Assistant, letting users check their calendar, listen to music, or get directions. The really neat feature, though, is that users can call upon the Assistant to translate voice conversations in real time. Google says the translation works with 40 languages.
The Pixel Buds come in a case with built-in 620 mAh battery that can replenish the 120 mAh five-hour power cell in the Buds multiple times. The Buds work with any phone running Android 6.0 Marshmallow or newer, though only Google Pixel owners can use the real-time translation functionality. The Pixel Buds are the second set of headphones with Google Assistant capabilities, right after Bose's QuietComfort 35 II. The Pixel Buds will come in Just Black, Simply White, or Kinda Blue colors.
This post's triple header concludes with Google's updated Daydream View head mount for using a Daydream-compatible phone as a VR headset. The company says the new version offers a wider field of view than its predecessor, but the magnitude of the change depends on the size of the phone inside the View as well as the dimensions of the user's face. VR users can bring their friends into the experience by casting the display to a Chromecast device, too.
The updated Daydream View has a removable top band for comfort and hairstyle maintenance, and a loop on the back for stowing the included controller. Users won't necessarily need a Pixel or Pixel 2 handset, but they will need a rather recent high-end Daydream-compatible phone. Interested gerbils are encouraged to check out the complete list here. The Daydream View is made of breathable, machine-washable fabric, but the upgraded cloth should be smoother and the controller is color-matched to the headset when the buyer picks the Charcoal, Fog, or Coral hue finishes.
Google's Clips camera will ring in at $249 when it arrives. Google is taking pre-orders for all three colors of Pixel Buds for $159. The company says the earbuds will ship in six to even weeks, meaning mid-November. The Daydream View headset is priced at $99, an amount that's in a middle ground between the outgoing $79 Daydream View and the $129 tag attached to the latest version of Samsung's Gear VR.
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