ANTWERP, Belgium – Google announced a bold and broad strategy centered on machine learning at its annual developer event. So far, its support in the OEM community appears modest at best.
The search giant has shifted from a “mobile-first” to an "AI-first” strategy, said chief executive Sundar Pichai in a keynote at Google IO. “In an AI-first world, we are rethinking all our products,” he said, announcing a new group, Google.ai, which will develop tools and applications to make machine learning more widely available.
Pichai also announced Google’s second-generation TensorFlow Processing Unit (TPU) as key to its future data center architecture. “We are rethinking our computing architecture again…We want Google Cloud to be the best cloud for machine learning,” he said, echoing hopes of rivals such as Amazon, Facebook and Baidu.
Demos of new features in Google’s translation and photo services were among the most impressive efforts using machine learning. “All Google came from understanding text and Web pages, so the fact we can understand speech and images [with neural networks] has profound implications for us,” he said.
Separately, Google previewed the next version of Android as well as a new variant, Android Go, for entry-level smartphones with as little as 512 Mbytes storage. It also hinted at plans for an OEM program for Google Home that will spawn third-party products by the end of the year that compete with rival Amazon’s Echo and Dot.
The move comes at a time when all big data centers are reinventing themselves for a world in which neural networks are delivering new capabilities to recognize speech, images and more.
Amazon has already sold as many as 10 million devices using its Alexa voice interface and has created a strong OEM program for it. Last month, Facebook showed ways it will deliver to smartphones augmented reality and other features using machine language. Microsoft is testing machine learning services accelerated on the Catapult FPGAs it is now putting on all its new servers.
The keynote was short of new OEM products. Among the exceptions:
- Asus will launch a smartphone using Google’s Tango platform for augmented reality
- HTC and Lenovo will ship this year DayDream VR headsets that come with custom electronics built in
- Samsung’s Galaxy 8 will get a software upgrade to support Daydream in its GearVR
- LG announced a line of appliances that will support Google Home and Assistant including a washing machine and dryer, refrigerator, oven range, air purifier, air conditioner and robotic vacuum
No doubt OEMs are trying to sort out which of several emerging machine learning services they want to support.
Apple was out early with Siri, but Amazon has the most traction with Alexa. Google seems to be stepping on the gas with its Assistant and Home. Microsoft’s Cortana is among other competitors along with options emerging from China’s big three data centers.
Next page: Android gets bigger and smaller