Google’s new flagship smartphone has potentially made great strides towards making tech more welcoming to everyone, regardless of background.
While many companies prize diversity as a key value (or at least claim to), it can often be difficult to point to concrete changes that they have made to drive forward this principle in their everyday work. That’s why I was pleasantly and unexpectedly surprised by the conference held by Google to announce the upcoming Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro smartphones.
Even though much of the online chatter has focused on the new design and some of the new software tricks that the duo of devices have on offer, there were two key features which aimed towards inclusivity in a real and tangible way, and left a lasting impression.
Firstly there was progress in the camera department which means that it can now more accurately capture darker skin tones, with the technology having previously been developed with white skin as the default and other ethnicities sidelined.
Camera technology can overlook and exclude people of color.— Made By Google (@madebygoogle) October 19, 2021
We're committed to reversing this bias with #RealTone on #Pixel6. We worked with expert image makers 🤳🏽🤳🏿🤳🏾 to improve our 📷 algorithms to represent people of color beautifully and accurately.#Pixel6Launch pic.twitter.com/W6LLW2LhjY
The results were immediately impressive to look at, proving the point that was being made. Though frustrating that people of colour have previously been underserved by the products that they paid just as much for as anybody else, the new Real Tone feature is a welcome corrective.
The second thing, demonstrated by the Japanese lifestyle guru Marie Kondo, is the very impressive Live Translate function that puts your words into a different language as you speak them.
#ad Connecting people who speak different languages sparks joy ✨ Watch me try out the Google #LiveTranslate tool, which can help lessen the language barrier for those who work abroad. What a valuable tool for empowering connections between people! #Pixel6 #Pixel6Launch pic.twitter.com/tdmE2IFAnj— Marie Kondo (@MarieKondo) October 19, 2021
This is perhaps even more astonishing to watch in action, seemingly solving at a stroke the intimidating barriers that languages can put up between people of different nationalities and surely allowing more cooperation across borders than ever before.
It’s still likely that there could be teething problems with either of these features. If you’ve ever used Google Translate before then you’ll know that incorrect results are still frustratingly common, while a wholesale change to the camera to improve the effect of lighting could well take a bit of software fine-tuning before being picture-perfect.
But not only were both of these features still striking to see (or hear) in action as purely technological innovations, they also testify to a thoughtful and meaningful definition of inclusion that puts a diverse customer base first — and thereby improves a product for everyone who uses it.
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