Google Pixel phones and Home speaker take on Siri and Echo


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Google has placed a virtual assistant at the heart of its latest smartphones and first voice-activated speaker. The two Pixel handsets are the first mobiles to trigger Google Assistant by pressing their home buttons, somewhat like Apple’s Siri. The Home speaker lets the same artificial intelligence tool be controlled without use of a touchscreen. It rivals Amazon’s Echo.
Google also unveiled new virtual reality kit and a 4K media streamer.

The Assistant has two key advantages over rival systems:
it can hold a conversation, in which one question or command builds on the last, rather than dealing with each request in isolation
it draws on Google’s Knowledge Graph database, which links together information about more 70 billion facts, and has been in use for four years
However, the US company will have to overcome privacy concerns and convince users that chatting to a virtual assistant has advantages over using individual apps.

Google already offers the Assistant as part of its chat app Allo – but the software has been installed on only a small minority of phones that support it as yet.

Smarter phones
The decision to brand the phones with the Pixel name, rather than Nexus, marks a break with the past, and is intended to signify that they were designed in house rather than by another manufacturer. The devices come in two sizes – with either a 5in (12.7cm) or 5.5in (14cm) OLED (organic light-emitting diode) screen – but otherwise have similar specs. Google said the 12.3 megapixel rear camera they share was the best on the market – basing its claim on an independent test by DxO Labs. And as further enticement, it is offering unlimited storage for the photos.

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