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The Morning After: The biggest announcements from Google I/O 2023

Pixels, Bard and holograms.

Google

Google’s big developer conference had a lot to get through. That included the Pixel Fold (more on that below), a new Pixel A-series phone for only $500, a tablet, Android 14, a faster, more sophisticated AI language model, and lots more tricks for AI chatbot Bard. Coming soon, Bard will be able to analyze images and integrate into Google apps, like Gmail and GDocs. And if you haven’t dabbled with Bard yet – no more waiting list.

Google
Google (Google)

And while Google had media and analysts captive, it showed off its holographic meeting experience, Project Starline, two years after it first appeared. Google did not allow Engadget to take pictures or video of the setup – it’s difficult to capture holographs on camera anyway – but our impressions were of an uncanny experience. The prototype uses a light-field display that looked like a mesh window, with multiple cameras to get the visual data to generate the 3D model of the caller. It’s not perfect, but then the system is busy. Sound and images are broadcast to the cloud over WiFi, creating a 3D model of both callers, then sending it down to the light display.

The pitch may be the most realistic, detailed teleconferencing experience, but the tech is still far away from our homes and offices. And Google does like to kill its darlings when things aren’t working out. Will Project Starline survive?

– Mat Smith

The Morning After isn’t just a newsletter – it’s also a daily podcast. Get our daily audio briefings, Monday through Friday, by subscribing right here.

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Google Pixel Fold vs. Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4: Battle of the foldable

Google Pixel Fold hands-on: A real rival for Samsung

Its first foldable phone is here. And expensive.

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TMA (Engadget)

While the $1,799 Pixel Fold is more expensive than reports suggested, its hardware is mostly what we expected. It sports a 5.8-inch external display and a wide 7.6-inch internal screen when it's opened. It has a new 9.5-megapixel external camera and an 8MP internal shooter, and its rear setup features a 48-megapixel main camera, a 10.8MP ultra-wide and a 10.8MP telephoto camera with 5X optical zoom. In a lot of ways, the Pixel Fold is like last year’s flagship Pixel 7 Pro, but foldable, with the same Tensor G2 processor.

Google apparently had to redesign a lot of components to make it into what is a pretty slender widescreen foldable. We got to see one in person (because we’re Engadget), and the screen has a wider aspect ratio than Samsung’s Galaxy Z Fold series. The bezels are… chunkier too, but that hasn’t put us off too much. The company hasn’t confirmed a shipping date, but it’ll be "sometime next month." It’s offering pre-orders for the foldable if you’re already sold on the concept.

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Google Pixel Tablet hands-on

A $500 smart display with a detachable screen

Though it was initially teased at last year’s Google I/O, the Pixel Tablet is finally ready for purchase. You can now pre-order it for $499, and that includes the speaker base. The Pixel Tablet will likely spend most of its time in your home as a smart display, and you can buy additional docks for $120 each, so you can have stations in multiple rooms to feel like a millionaire.

The company doesn’t want you to think of this as a standalone $370 tablet. With an 11-inch screen, a rounded-rectangle shape and a mesh fabric covering the speaker base, the Pixel Tablet looks incredibly similar to the Nest Hub Max. When the tablet is docked, you can use it as an additional screen and Chromecast to it. Google said this is the first tablet with Chromecast built in, but to be clear, the feature is only available when the device is docked and in Hub Mode, not as a standalone slate.

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Scammers used AI-generated Frank Ocean songs to steal thousands of dollars

It follows the fake Drake and The Weeknd song that circulated last month.

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TMA (Mario Anzuoni / reuters)

More AI-generated music mimicking a famous artist has made the rounds — while making lots of money for the scammer passing it off as genuine. A collection of fake Frank Ocean songs sold for a reported $13,000 CAD ($9,722 in US dollars) last month on a music-leaking forum devoted to the Grammy-winning singer, according to Vice. The fact Ocean hasn’t released a new album since 2016 and recently teased an upcoming follow-up to Blond may have added to the eagerness to believe the songs were real.

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Vast and SpaceX plan to launch the first commercial space station in 2025

The duo will have to compete with Blue Origin and other big rivals.

Another company wants to launch the first commercial space station. Vast is partnering with SpaceX to launch its Haven-1 station as soon as August 2025. A Falcon 9 rocket will carry the platform to low Earth orbit, with a follow-up Vast-1 mission using Crew Dragon to bring four people to Haven-1 for up to 30 days. Vast is taking bookings for crew wanting to participate in scientific or philanthropic work. It’ll be racing against Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin, which doesn't expect to launch its Orbital Reef until the second half of the decade. Voyager, Lockheed Martin and Nanoracks don't expect to operate their Starlab facility before 2027.

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Google Pixel 7a review

It’s got everything you need and more for just $499.

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TMA (Engadget)

So maybe we had one piece of Google hardware a little early. With the Pixel 7a, Google seems to have nailed the balance between price and performance. We’re talking a Tensor G2 chip, a 90 Hz display, wireless charging and a higher-res rear cam, all starting at just $499. And when you factor in its design, the Pixel 7a delivers everything I like about the regular Pixel 7 for $100 less. I’ll say this: If you’ve got family members musing on buying a new Android phone, save yourself a headache and recommend the Pixel 7a.

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