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Google baked its AI 'Assistant' into the new Pixel phones

Google is going all-in on AI and mobile.
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The Pixel and Pixel XL may look new on the outside, but just like grandma says, it's what's inside that counts. Google has tweaked the underlying software that powers the Pixels, baking its AI Assistant directly into the phones and launching them with Nougat 7.1.

Assistant is Google's conversational AI helper, similar to Microsoft's Cortana or Apple's Siri. Assistant's machine learning capabilities already power Allo, Google's mobile-only messaging app, and it also shows up in products like Google Home. In Allo, Assistant allows users to search for things like directions, restaurant suggestions and weather conditions with conversational phrases, and it even suggests responses (à la Inbox). Chatting directly with Assistant activates even more features, like the ability to receive top news stories from around the world, see your own work emails, pull up your calendar agenda and navigate other personal items.

During its Made by Google event today, CEO Sundar Pichai described how Assistant will help users operate within a "personal Google" that understands context unique to each individual. This means you can quickly pull up local sports scores, your own bike-lock combinations and other specialized features. On the Pixel phones, Assistant remembers your personal preferences, such as listening to music via YouTube rather than another player.

The Pixel phones are the first to launch with Assistant, though the Nougat operating system itself provides automatic updates and the Pixel features a built-in, 24/7 customer support system. Additionally, Pixel comes with Google Photos built-in and relies on the cloud, meaning you'll never run out of storage for photos and videos at full-quality, even 4K. Google Duo, the company's video chat service, will be available on the Pixel out-of-the-box. Last but not least, the phone is Daydream-ready, meaning it was built with mobile virtual reality in mind.

The main Pixel and Pixel XL screens are going to look a little different too. Google has redesigned its launcher, which covers all of the Pixel's apps, add-ons and home screens. Pixel software lead Brian Rakowski took the stage and showed off the the phone's new launcher, including circular icons with white backgrounds for Google's own apps.

All told, it's nice to see there were still some surprises around the Pixel and Pixel XL, after many of their hardware and software details were outed in a handful of leaks this week.

Click here to catch all the latest news from Google's fall event.

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