Weekly Roundup

Posted October 7th 2016


This week, we look at:

  • Google’s event, which introduced new hardware along with a new AI assistant
  • Oculus’s event, which unveiled the company’s plans for making VR social


Google’s Pixel Event (10-minute recap video)

  • Google Assistant: Google’s vision for interfaces is all about the spoken word. And to support that vision, it introduced three new products, all with Google Assistant at their core. This shift shows us how the company’s work in AI is leading its products away from screens and materials, and toward conversational interactions with machines themselves. [via Fast Company]  
  • Pixel Phone: The Pixel is a grown up Google phone, meant to compete with the top brass of the smartphone world, including Samsung and Apple. The 5-inch Pixel and 5.5-inch Pixel XL have a “G” on the back, signifying how Google designed the phones on its own instead of tweaking another company’s product into a Nexus. [via CNET]
  • Google Home: Home is Google’s answer to Amazon line’s of voice-powered Echo devices. Unlike Google’s current voice-powered assistant, Home also integrates with music apps like Spotify and Pandora. Soon, it’ll also allow you to cast Netflix videos to any TV with a Chromecast attached to it. [via TechCrunch]
  • Daydream View: Daydream View is a $79 cloth-covered mobile virtual reality headset — with notably, a VR motion controller that is normally in the domain of more expensive VR gear — that will be compatible with the Google’s just-announced Pixel smartphones and eventually other Daydream-certified handsets. [via USA Today]


*Related articles on conversational interfaces

  • Samsung is buying an AI assistant from the masterminds behind Siri: Samsung is not going to be left out of the artificial intelligence revolution. That’s why it has acquired Viv Labs, an expert in artificial intelligence, with the plan of bringing its talents to Galaxy phones and other appliances in the future. [via Digital Trends
  • Branding once meant logos. Today, it means AI: Whether it’s the text-based chatbots like Google Allo or Facebook Messenger, or conversational interfaces like Siri, Cortana, or Alexa, these personality-based manifestations of brands are going to have unprecedentedly intimate access into our lives. The Nike logo on our shoes might have known that our feet smelled, but a Cortana that listens to everything will be able to predict if you have cancer. [via Fast Co.Design]   


Oculus’ Developer Conference (6-minute recap video)

  • Untethered Headsets: The hardware sits somewhere between the Rift and the Gear VR. It doesn’t require a PC like the Rift, yet it’s more powerful than Gear VR. Oh, and it’s wireless. What’s particularly interesting about the prototype device is that Oculus is using it to show off something called “inside-out tracking,” a technology that uses cameras on the headset for positional movement — so that the game can know if you’re crouching or leaning to one side, for example. [via Engadget]   
  • Oculus Rooms: A feature called Oculus Rooms allows people to get together in a kind of simulated clubroom where they can play games such as poker, listen to music, play ball, or just chat. The rooms also provide an easy way to jump into virtual-reality apps with social features, such as one from Hulu that lets you watch movies and TV with distant friends. [via MIT Technology Review]
  • Facebook Messenger VR: On stage, Mark Zuckerberg answered a Facebook Messenger video call from his wife. The Messenger video call popped up on a virtual wrist-worn device. After he physically tapped on the notification, the video call opened in a separate window and Zuck was able to chat while engaging with the virtual environment while the call stayed in his field-of-view. [via TechCrunch]  


*Related articles on mixed reality

  • VR may be a legitimate design tool: Tiltbrush is the ultimate sketching app. But there’s a catch: while you can technically export the images to 3D software to play with further, there’s no seamless, Adobe-style workflow for VR content. And so no one seriously designs in VR. GravitySketch is a new style of creative workflow where users can create something in VR and finish it up on their iPad. [via Fast Co.Design]
  • The mainstreaming of augmented reality: Aside from complex technological advances, three other elements have enabled the mass adoption of AR apps: 1) meaningful content, 2) convincing and realistic interaction of the virtual with the physical environment, and 3) unique value that goes beyond what other technologies deliver. As designers and marketers continue to craft AR experiences, it will become crucial to acquire better understanding which areas of human lives can be visually enhanced. [via Harvard Business Review