Google Unveils New Products, Flexes Muscles To Competitors And Regulators : All Tech Considered Google unveils a litany of products at the developers' conference, including messaging apps, a personal virtual assistant and a voice-controlled speaker that connects you with it.

With New Products, Google Flexes Muscles To Competitors, Regulators

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RENEE MONTAGNE: The world's tech giants are working on the next step in search, a virtual personal assistant that gets better the more you use it. NPR's Aarti Shahani reports Google laid out its plans at its mega conference yesterday.

AARTI SHAHANI, BYLINE: Onstage at the Shoreline Amphitheater in Silicon Valley, the DJ and live drummer fade out...

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SHAHANI: ...And Google CEO Sundar Pichai steps up.

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SUNDAR PICHAI: We can do things which we never thought we could do before.

SHAHANI: Hard to imagine what that means for the company that made cars self-driving. Pichai gives some examples that sound simple, but aren't.

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PICHAI: If you're in Google Photos today and you search for hugs, we actually pull all the pictures of people hugging in your personal collection.

SHAHANI: Pichai was unveiling a new product Google calls Assistant. A key detail about how it works - you don't have to type. Google has been training its algorithms to hear you better and better, even if you're in a noisy room, even if you use slang.

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PICHAI: We want to be there for our users, asking them - hi, how can help?

SHAHANI: Many companies - Microsoft, Apple, Facebook, Amazon - they're all racing to create a really good assistant. Google's competitive advantage? It owns all the knowledge in Google Search, and it owns Android, the most popular smartphone operating system on earth.

Pichai gives another example. Say you're in downtown Chicago standing in front of some big, mirror sculpture. Ask your smartphone - Google, who designed this? You don't have to say what this means or where you are.

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PICHAI: We understand your context. And we answer that the designer is Anish Kapoor.

SHAHANI: Or say you want to ask Google a familiar question. What's playing at the movie theater?

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PICHAI: Today, if you have that question, we do return movie results. But we want to go a step further. We want to understand your context and maybe suggest three relevant movies which you would like nearby.

SHAHANI: And for further context, a word he uses a lot, say you want to bring your kids.

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PICHAI: And then if that's the case, Google should refine the answer and suggest family-friendly options.

SHAHANI: In a two-hour keynote, Pichai and his team offered a barrage of new products and services that rely on Google Assistant. If a friend sends a selfie, the new messaging service called Allo can suggest responses that sound like you, in text or emoji. A new device called Home - yep, just home, would have a place in the dining table, be the helpful extended family you never had, as described in this commercial.

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UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: (As character) OK, Google. Play the Morning playlist.

SHAHANI: What's fascinating about the assistant is that it is a form of artificial intelligence. The machine is learning through practice, practice, practice. And that creates a new argument for why Google should get users on it in as many ways as possible. The more dominant it is, the better it works.

THOMAS VINJE: I generally see the argument. And that's something that should be considered further.

SHAHANI: Thomas Vinje is a leading lawyer in Europe's challenge to Google for operating as a monopoly.

VINJE: I have a very strong philosophical disposition in favor of competition and inclined not to believe that monopolies often serve the public interest. But (laughter) one should be open to any possibility.

SHAHANI: Vinje says it'll be interesting to see if and how Google uses the dominant position it already has - an old-school search, an Android - to get us using Google Assistant. Aarti Shahani, NPR News, San Francisco.

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