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11 things we learned from Google I/O 2022

A new Pixel Watch, new phones, a tablet teaser and more!

Google I/O 2022 has kicked off, and there’s plenty of hardware, software, and Android announcements for tech fans to sink their teeth into. We watched the whole thing live (though sadly from the confines of our respective homes) to serve up all the tastiest news morsels on one easily digestible page.

Without further ado, here’s the most important news from Google I/O 2022.

1. The Pixel Watch is finally official

After years of rumours and leaks, Google’s very own homegrown Pixel Watch is finally official. Matching recent leaks, it’s a rather attractive circular affair, with a beautiful curved glass screen dominating the entire body, along with a physical Apple Watch-like crown on the right hand side. It’s running Wear OS 3 (developed in collaboration with Samsung), and will land packing updated features like the New Google Wallet in addition to offline Maps navigation. It’s also rocking deeper integration with Google-owned Fitbit services, though we’re not sure how that will integrate with Google Fit or if it’ll end up replacing it entirely.

2. Pixel Buds Pro incoming

Google’s answer to Apple’s AirPods Pro have been officially revealed. The $199 Pixel Buds Pro earbuds feature active noise-cancelling along with a transparency mode for hearing the outside world, in addition to multi-device Bluetooth connectivity and IPX4 water resistance. Available in four colours including black, white, red and what appears to be a light pastel green/yellow, they’ll arrive in a smooth pebble-like charging case that appears to be very similar to 2020’s Pixel Buds’ offering. Even fancier are built-in sensors that measure the pressure in your ear canal so that the buds themselves can actively negate that nasty pressurised feeling you sometimes get from ANC headphones. We look forward to taking them for a spin to see exactly what that entails.

3. Hello Pixel 6a

The much-leaked Pixel 6a is official, and it’s powered by the same Tensor AI chip found in the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro. Costing just $449 (UK pricing TBC), it’ll land on 28 July with a nicely compact 6.1in screen and a selection of two-tone paint jobs. Like the Pixel 5a it’s a dual-camera affair, though it’s now packing a 12MP ultrawide sensor alongside the main 12MP main camera. The 8MP selfie cam remains, and thanks to the powerful hardware, you’ll have software tricks like Google’s Magic Eraser photo editing tool at your disposal. Less sexy but definitely worth mentioning is the fact that Pixel 6a owners will also be treated to five years of security updates too.

4. Pixel 7 sneak peek

Google practically rushed through our official glance at the Pixel 7 ahead of its proper launch later on this year. There’s no word on detailed specs, but we got a good look at the design, which retains the Pixel 6 DNA with a more refined feel. The glass camera bump is now a sturdier aluminium, which also makes up the entire case of the phone. Inside we’ve got a second-gen Tensor chip that’s more powerful than ever, with, no doubt, lots of fancy AI-powered speech recognition, photo and security features at its disposal. Watch this space…

5. Magic Translation Glasses

Okay, so we haven’t actually got an official name for the glasses concept that Google very briefly teased at the end of its keynote, but colour us tentatively impressed nonetheless. Whether or not the glasses — which appear to have a set of AR lenses that overlay virtual live-translation text in real-time — will ever come to fruition remains to be seen, but the fact that we were treated to a glimpse into such a potentially game-changing product is enough. For now at least. (Please don’t be vaporware).

6. Pixel tablet incoming

We also got a very brief glimpse at a new Pixel tablet — a curvy, pastel-coloured affair that’s running the same Tensor chip found inside Google’s latest Pixel handsets. That’s… pretty much all that was revealed, beyond the fact that it’ll be released sometime next year.

7. Bye, Hey Google

“Hey Google” has always been clunkier to say compared to the short and snappy “Alexa”, but a new Nest Hub Max update offers a far easier way to call upon the powers of Google Assistant. The new feature — called Look and Talk — allows the Nest Hub Max to use its built-in camera to determine if you’re looking it it. If you are, you can simply ask it questions or bark your orders without the need for a “Hey Google” precursor.

It’s an opt-in feature that will require you to setup both Google’s Face Match and Voice Match services, with Look and Talk interactions processed directly on the device itself. We imagine it’s a feature that will roll out to other devices including smartphones in future, so watch this space.

8. Google Maps gets a slick Immersive View

Google Maps has a new mode called Immersive View which lets you explore select locations in beautifully detailed, glorious 3D computer-generated models, which are created using a combination of Google’s satellite captures and Street View shots. Zoom into a location from above, and you’ll be treated to a video game-like world, with support for most devices. Predictably it only supports a select few cities at launch — San Francisco, London, New York, Los Angeles, and Tokyo — with more supported expected in future.

9. (New) Google Wallet

Google Wallet has what appears to be a hefty update, introducing support beyond mere payment cards. These include things like plane tickets and student cards, to plane tickets, reservations and even government-issued IDs like drivers licenses and vaccine passes. Oh, and the all-important Disney World pass. The announcement was very US-centric, so we’ll have to wait and see what plans, if any, are slated for across the pond.

10. Supercharge your webcam and mic

If you use Google Meet for most of your online calls then you’re in for a treat, thanks to Google’s new Portrait Lighting and de-reverberation tool. The former uses AI magic to turn your laptop’s useless pixellated mess of a webcam into a sharper, clearer image. Not only that, buy you can also use a virtual repositionable light to do your face justice (or balance out a single light source such as a window). The de-reverberation tool does exactly what you’d expect — namely, taking your mic audio and making it less echoey — making it another useful tool for home office shenanigans.

11. Android 13 Beta 2 is out today

Android 13 beta 2 features collage

Developers and Android aficionados will be glad to hear that the second public beta of Android 13 will be available from today. Designed around three big themes — doing more with your phone, integrating with tablets and watches, and making everything work together harmoniously — it promises more features than ever before.