Matthew Biggins


AI by Default: The Future of Consumer Products

In Google’s October 4th, 2017 Made by Google product announcement, they publicly placed their bet on what they believe to be the future of computing: AI. No surprise there. Every major technology company, car manufacture, and government has declared its own AI priorities. But what Google did today was show us the future of how AI will integrate into the objects we use every day.

Sundar Pichai speaking at Made by Google

From the breadth of products introduced — two smart speakers, two smart phones, head phones, a Chromebook, and a clip-on camera — it is clear Google is eyeing a future where AI is ubiquitous across not only our gadgets, but also, well, everything. Remember this is the company that purchased the smart-thermostat maker nest back in 2014. Since then, nest has expanded its product line from smoke detectors to connected video doorbells that can identify people using computer vision.

Between that acquisition and the products announced today, it is clear Google is aiming for ubiquitous, AI-enabled technology. But this alone isn’t that original. Google, Amazon, Apple, Samsung are all carving out space in the ubiquitous, AI-enabled tech market. What is telling about Google’s approach is not what was there, but what was missing.

Two products stand out: Google Home Max & Mini

Google Home Max and Mini shown next to the original Google Home

Notice anything special about them — a distinguishing feature or “Googley” aesthetic? Right. There isn’t any. In fact, if most people saw these in a friend’s house, they probably wouldn’t even know they are Google products.

But that is the point. The Max and Mini are just speakers.

They blend seamlessly into your space and could just as easily be any other brand. This absence of Google branding, save for four white dots when you talk to them, reveals Google’s idea of the future of technology.

Every object should be connected to the Internet.
Every object should have AI baked in.
Every object should just work.

Google doesn’t want us to view speakers, doorbells, or clip-on cameras as tech gadgets. They want to shift our mindset into thinking an AI-enabled doorbell is a prerequisite for being a doorbell. If a doorbell doesn’t have AI baked in, well it’s not really a doorbell anymore. If your speaker doesn’t know your music tastes or you can’t talk with it, is it even a speaker?

That is Google’s belief for the future. They are attempting to redefine what it means to be a consumer product. Every product should be smart as a default state. This idea is subtly communicated through their simple, clean design. Frankly, it’s very Apple-esque.

Now that Google has shown this framework for the future, it is likely that other companies will follow. Ubiquitous and AI-enabled is about to be the default for every object in our lives. This is a future to be excited about.

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