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Google Assistant gets many improvements on Pixel 8 and 8 Pro

Google launched the Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro at a hardware event this morning. Temperature sensor, off-device video processing, and improved photo editing are highlights. Both have substantially improved AI features thanks to Google Assistant.

Google Assistant can summarize, read aloud, and translate web pages on the Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro, improving on Android’s “read aloud” feature. Google’s AI can now paraphrase what’s on screen into key points using generative models, unlike Assistant, which read aloud every word on a webpage, including unrelated content above and below articles.

This reporter is skeptical of AI’s summarization skills, so we’ll see how accurate they are. Assistant-driven summarization could save time if it works as advertised.

Google claims that Assistant voice typing on the Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro is twice as fast in English and lets you type, edit, and send messages in multiple languages. Assistant automatically detects and switches languages when transcribing spoken voices. Assistant now recognizes pauses and disfluencies (e.g., “ahs” and “ums”) to start U.S. English conversations.

In terms of natural conversations, the Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro are among the first to get Assistant’s more “realistic-sounding” voice, which will interact with Call Screen callers. (The Pixel 6’s Call Screen, launched several years ago, can answer phone calls and provide call management options.) The upgraded Call Screen, powered by “multi-step, multi-turn conversational AI,” uses “more natural-sounding series of voice prompts” to identify callers and their reasons, initially for English-language callers.

The Pixel 7’s background-noise-reduction feature Clear Calling has been improved for clearer calls. Google claims Call Screen now detects and filters spam calls better.

Google demonstrated at today’s event the Assistant silently answering an unknown number and chatting to determine if it was a spammer. Google says contextual replies so users can navigate phone trees via the Assistant without taking a call will be added soon. Call Screen will arrive on Pixel Watch later this year.

Meanwhile, the Assistant-powered At a Glance widget on the Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro’s home screen has been redesigned. According to Google, it displays more “useful info,” such as travel and event ticket updates.

These changes are the first sign of Google Assistant’s generative-AI-first strategy. Google planned to “reboot” Assistant this year, focusing on generative AI capabilities like integration with Bard, Google’s answer to OpenAI’s viral ChatGPT chatbot, Axios reported. Google unveiled several new Assistant tie-ins with Bard at today’s event.

As with other Assistant features that launched on new Pixel devices first, we expect more to come to previous-gen Pixel smartphones in the coming months.

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