The smart phone age is over and Google thinks AI is next


iphoneThe modern smart phone era, as kicked off by the launch of the first iPhone 10 years ago, is now mature.

At the launch of Google’s Pixel 2 phone in San Francisco today, CEO Sundar Pichai acknowledged smartphone features were “levelling off” and said it was hard to develop exciting new products based on hardware alone.

Google is in a transition from a “mobile-first” company to an “AI-first” business.

The machine-learning part of artificial intelligence is one of Google’s strengths.

Neural machine translation now understands 96 languages and does 2 billion translations per day.

The demonstration that most illustrated the power of the new integrated Google was a live translation featuring a woman speaking Swedish while wearing the new wireless headphones, Google Pixel Buds, to a person holding a Google Pixel phone and speaking English.

Machine learning (ML) has already revolutionised the photography workflow, including taking pictures, adding effects, and most importantly finding images in a large collection.

ML powers the Google Assistant that lets us do Google searches by simply asking questions and the ability to access other big data sets, including maps, means natural but sophisticated questions such as, “is the chemist on Station Street open?” can be answered faster using speech than a web search.

Software technology to improve the building of machine learning models continues to be advanced by Google, and their “AutoML” takes some of the previously required human expertise out of the building of models and produces results that improve month by month.

Many questions to the Google search engine are not easy to express in words, and work is underway on “Google Lens” which can look at, for example, an advertising flyer and read the phone number, email address or web URL from it and take the appropriate action for the user.

The smartphone era has revolutionised our world. Smartphones are our most used devices but Google and Apple both know the race is on to figure out what will come next.

Apple has shown control of both hardware and software is key to a coherent experience and Google has clearly taken that to heart with the Made for Google products we now see.