Google Is Opening the AI Floodgates

This week we recap all the news from Google I/O and discuss how the company is reshaping its core business with generative tools.
Rick Osterloh speaking on stage
Google’s senior vice president of devices and services Rick Osterloh announced the new Pixel foldable phone at I/O.Photograph: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Google would like you to know that it has been at the forefront of machine intelligence for decades, actually. Never mind that it was beaten to the generative-AI hype party by the likes of OpenAI and Microsoft Bing, because Google has big plans. At its I/O developer conference this week, in addition to announcing some new hardware (including a folding phone), Google turned on the firehose of AI. During a two-hour presentation, the company showed how it’s busily building generative technologies into nearly everything it does. Chatbots, text generators, and content-creation tools will soon be embedded in Google’s devices, search pages, Android apps, and Google’s Workspace suite of productivity apps like Gmail, Docs, and Sheets.

This week on Gadget Lab, we talk about the big news from Google’s I/O event and why the company is so dead set on sticking AI into absolutely everything.

Show Notes

Read all of WIRED’s coverage from Google I/O, including everything the company announced, how Google is adding AI to search and Android, and the details of the new Pixel Fold (and why Google might not really care whether you buy it).


Julian recommends going on vacation and also the new Legend of Zelda game. Lauren recommends Janet Malcom’s book Still Pictures. Mike recommends the JBL Reflect Aero earbuds.

Julian Chokkattu can be found on Twitter @JulianChokkattu. Lauren Goode is @LaurenGoode. Michael Calore is @snackfight. Bling the main hotline at @GadgetLab. The show is produced by Boone Ashworth (@booneashworth). Our theme music is by Solar Keys.

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Note: This is an automated transcript, which may contain errors.

Michael Calore: Lauren.

Lauren Goode: Mike.

Michael Calore: Lauren, have you ever used AI to compose a text message?

Lauren Goode: I think all of us have, or a lot of us have.

Michael Calore: How so?

Lauren Goode: Well, you know when you're typing a text and those prompt words appear below because your phone is guessing that you mean to type the word chameleon or something? It's AI.

Michael Calore: Sure. Yeah. I like the hack where you can sweep across your space bar on the virtual keyboard and it completes the sentence for you on the Pixel phone. It's pretty amazing.

Lauren Goode: What? I don't think I knew that.

Michael Calore: Well, what about generative AI? Have you ever used that to compose an email or a cover letter or just to send a message to somebody because you don't want to be bothered to actually type it out yourself?

Lauren Goode: I haven't done that yet, but I bet I'm going to get there.

Michael Calore: Me too.

Lauren Goode: Yeah.

Michael Calore: I can't figure out whether I should be excited about this or concerned.

Lauren Goode: I think that's what we should talk about.

Michael Calore: Let's do it.

[Gadget Lab intro theme music plays]

Michael Calore: Hi, everyone. Welcome to Gadget Lab, I am Michael Calore. I'm a senior editor at WIRED.

Lauren Goode: And I'm Lauren Goode. I'm a senior writer at WIRED, soon to be replaced by generative AI.

Michael Calore: We are also joined by WIRED senior reviews editor Julian Chokkattu, in the flesh.

Lauren Goode: Yay.

Julian Chokkattu: Hello there.

Lauren Goode: Julian's here. Also, he's really tall.

Julian Chokkattu: Yes. Yes, I am.

Michael Calore: So is the AI simulacrum. All right. Well, in case you haven't guessed yet, today we're going to be talking about Google I/O, the big developer event that the company holds every year down in its hometown of Mountain View, California. Google used the first day of the conference, which was yesterday, to announce a whole bunch of new products, including a folding Pixel phone, a non-folding Pixel phone, a tablet. But it wasn't just about hardware, because I/O is traditionally all about software, and this year's keynote was filled with demos of new software powered by machine intelligence. Google showed off a new chat-style interface for Search, some AI-powered Android features, and a little bot that helps you write emails and spreadsheets. Pressure has been building for Google to catch up to all the other companies like Microsoft and OpenAI that have been enjoying all the hype around generative AI. So Google's response this week was to just put AI into everything. We're going to save the hardware news from I/O for the second half of the show and spend the first half talking about these new machine-intelligent tools. Before we get too deep into it, let's set the scene a bit. Now, Lauren and Julian, both of you saw the I/O keynote in person. What was the vibe like?

Lauren Goode: I defer to our guest?

Julian Chokkattu: It was colder than I expected, which was not … I just wasn't expecting that really, so—

Lauren Goode: Welcome to Northern California.

Julian Chokkattu: They put sunscreen and all that kind of stuff in the little bag that they gave us, and I was like, "I don't need this. It's not hot at all." But no, the vibe for the actual keynote was pretty normal. It felt like previous I/Os in a lot of ways. You can feel the fewer number of developers that were there, but overall the keynote felt like it was years past, pre-pandemic, the speakers, all that such. The vibe of what the show was was just very weird, because the traditional things you hear Google talk about a lot at these things—like Android, or Wear OS, or tablets, or all these other things—just wasn't there. Google Assistant is another good one. I don't think they ever said the words Google Assistant together. So that was really weird, because it's feels like this thing they've been hyping up for so many years, and now it was all completely different stuff. So that was just the most weird part of the show.

Lauren Goode: Yeah, what Julian said, that all makes sense. It was great to be in person again, this was the first in-person I/O since 2019, since before the pandemic. So there was a bit of excitement in the air, people seeing each other again for the first time in years, but there were fewer developers there, and so it was a little bit more subdued. There also was, little side note, a plane flying overhead during the keynote. We were all sitting in the amphitheater, which is outdoors, it's kind of this bowl, and we could hear as Sundar Pichai is talking about the advancements in AI that Google has pioneered there's a plane flying overhead with a banner that is basically calling out Google for not keeping people's locations private specific to when they're searching for abortions.

Julian Chokkattu: Oh, I see.

Lauren Goode: Specific to when they're going to abortion clinics. And I'm pretty sure that was a reaction to a Washington Post story that ran earlier this week where the Post ran an investigation and realized that even when they thought their information was private, it's not. So just zooming out a little bit here, Google is an advertising company, it's a data collection company. And so there was this juxtaposition of, "Look at all of these incredible whizzbang AI tools that are going to make your searches faster, your email writing more efficient. You're going to be able to generate entirely new content from just entering a few prompts, and this is how it's going to make your life better. But Google is still, at the end of the day, a search advertising company that is concerned about its bottom line." So that's setting the scene. And I wonder too if it's worth maybe quickly talking about the differences between the AI that we've seen in Google in years past versus the generative AI that we're talking about today?

Michael Calore: Yeah, what's the difference between Google Assistant and the predictive text stuff that we were just talking about and something like the chatbot that appears in search now, or the bots that are going to help us write emails in Gmail?

Lauren Goode: Right. So I mentioned earlier that as we've been texting for years now, there's this predictive text that pops up and that is just one of many examples of AI that has already existed in our apps and phones. The category of AI that people are all talking about right now is generative AI. And the main difference is the size of the data training sets that inform what's known as these machine... people call them models, they're machine learning models. The data sets are massive. And then the technology itself is using these very specific frameworks, one is called generative pre-trained transformers, which translates to GPT, which may sound familiar to people. And the idea is that it's not just AI that's enhancing your computing experience, it's actually creating totally new content. It's able to compose an entire email for you, not just slightly change the tone of it or suggest a word. And so that's boiling it down to its most simple terms. But yeah, I think that's the category of AI that Google was talking about most yesterday.

Michael Calore: So these tools are going to start showing up in places that you and I hang out in all the time like spreadsheets, docs, Gmail. We're going to start seeing what show up in these tools?

Julian Chokkattu: So the coolest thing that I saw that Google announcing was this thing called Duet AI in Workspace, and that is basically adding these AI features into apps like Google Docs, Google Sheets and Google Slides. And what is really interesting is it's almost like an evolution of those tools. Historically we just use those tools, we type in Google Docs, we make slides, PowerPoints, all that kind of stuff, but here you can, for example, in Google Docs, just enter a prompt of... it will help me write a job description, that was the example they gave. And of course you're going to input some key details like for a marketing position, I don't know, and then it actually spits out what looks like a pretty good job description and then you can then go in and tinker it to tailor it more to your position. And so there's a lot of questions about what you're doing in that scenario because you're completely asking this AI to write something and then is it really your own work? There's just a lot of questions like that. But I can see it being super helpful for a lot of these mundane tasks that we all have to do that really, at this point in time, we should be using services like AI to get help with things like that. One thing that I was thinking of was when I was younger, making Google Slides, for example, or using PowerPoint, we would use the Clip Art function to hunt through all these images to just add some silly photos or whatever into our PowerPoint presentations and Word Art, things like that. And now the fact that you can just use generative AI to just say, "I need a picture of a pizza," or something like that, and not have to worry about sourcing necessarily. But again, that is also this thing is getting those images by sourcing all of the internet and potentially using people's artworks. And so there's so many weird questions that follow along with what gen AI is able to do in these services that everyone uses, but it does feel like the natural step/evolution of these everyday tools.

Michael Calore: Yeah. Traditionally, whenever the tech industry is caught in one of these hype cycles, they don't pause and wait to answer those big questions. They just steamroll straight through and just keep pushing these tools out. There are people who are calling for the tech industry to pause all of these tools and answer these big questions about things like derivative work and copyright, and the ethical considerations, and the safety considerations of them, but-

Lauren Goode: And the misinformation.

Michael Calore: And the misinformation.

Lauren Goode: Hallucinations, as it's called, the ability or the tendency for these generative AI models to spit out completely inaccurate information.

Michael Calore: Yeah, yeah, make up bullshit, as they say.

Lauren Goode: OK. Is that the technical term for it?

Michael Calore: That's the technical term, it's bullshit. Speaking of, Lauren, what did you think of the Search stuff? You've spent a lot of time playing around with Bing Chat, which was the big one that came out earlier this year from Microsoft and a little bit of time also playing with Bard, the chatbot that Google has made for its search tool. But there was even more shown off at I/O, right?

Lauren Goode: Right. So when Google released Bard a couple of months ago, there were at least two things to note about it. One is that it was seen very much as a response to OpenAI's ChatGPT and Microsoft's Bing Chat. Of course, Google had been working on Bard for a long time, it wasn't like it just came up with it in a few weeks, but it was as though Google was a little bit reactionary. The second thing is that Bard was its own url, its own interface, it wasn't a part of Google Search. You would go to Bard and you would type in a prompt or a query and it would spit out a response in very conversational language. And Google was positioning this as a creative companion, it's not the thing that's going to replace Search, but it's something that's going to enhance the stuff you're trying to make or generate on the internet. And then there was a Google It button within there where if Bard's answer wasn't sufficient for you, you could Google it. Now what we've seen is an experimental version of Google Search as we've known it for a very long time with a generative AI option at the top. And that option won't appear for every search, for example, if you search for something political, like I searched for, "What are the abortion laws in Florida?" The generative AI actually wouldn't answer it, wouldn't participate in that conversation. Google says similarly that's going to happen for searches around health or finances, it's not going to advise you to trade certain stocks. But if you're shopping for a Bluetooth speaker, in this experimental new version of Search, there's a gen AI option at the top and it basically generates a bullet pointed list of things that you should be considering. It generates little summaries for different Bluetooth speakers. Then off to the side, there might be some chips or things you can click on that show reviews. Then below that, you eventually get to web results. Google is trying to summarize or expedite in some ways the search process using generative AI at the top. And this is still experimental, they made that very clear. My reaction to it was I was not totally convinced that that was going to make the current problems we may or may not have with Search any better. We also haven't seen yet what advertising is going to look like. But it's wild to think that this is the founding product of Google as a company, as an entity, and this is a whole new world we're entering.

Julian Chokkattu: Yeah. That whole demo was fun to watch considering my job is... all of our jobs are testing products and recommending gadgets. The example they had was e-bikes, and we were talking in the live blog and in our Slack channels, and Adrian, our coworker, she was saying that the top recommendation that came up when they had the query in there for any specific type of e-bike was one that she didn't like. And so there was just all these questions of where is this data really coming from? Because it wasn't really clear, it wasn't citing review sites or anything specific, it was just kind of like, "Here's five top e-bikes based on what you're searching for." And so there are people out there doing the real work of testing these things. And then it's like Google just takes all of that information, doesn't really source or credit, and then puts that up there. And then we also make revenue from affiliate links and people purchasing items by clicking our links, you take a small portion of that.

Lauren Goode: Disclosure.

Julian Chokkattu: And that is going to affect all these websites and publishers that review products and recommend such. And now instead of clicking through their links, you're clicking through Google's links, and so that's sort of just gone. And it reminds me of when publishers were first having this battle between Facebook and Google where everyone would be going to click through those sites and no one was really clicking into a publisher's website, so there was a huge traffic dip and that affected everything. And that ended up with a lot of lawsuits and settlements and Google and Facebook investing in these journalism programs. And so it feels like we're coming into a 2.0 situation of something like that where maybe that's what's going to happen. I don't know, but it is a little freaky knowing that the thing that I do right now might completely change within two, three years.

Michael Calore: Yes, this is what it's like to cover the tech industry and the pivot to chatbot era.

Lauren Goode: Well, might I suggest it's better than a pivot to video.

Michael Calore: Yes, most likely. All right, well let's take a quick break and when we come back we'll talk about the folding phone.


Michael Calore: We were all expecting a big hardware announcement at I/O and we got one, the Pixel Fold was announced at the show, well actually it was teased a few days before the show and then officially unveiled on stage. It's shiny and it's pretty, it has two screens and five cameras, it costs $1,800. Julian, you got a chance to play around with this bendy Pixel. Tell us all about it.

Julian Chokkattu: It is fun to use and fun to... I don't know, I feel like the instant dismissal of these types of devices, which has kind of been happening over the past couple of years, I think there's arguments for it and against it, number one being that this thing is $1,799 and it is an insane amount of money to spend on a phone, which you can, again, Google shows that the Pixel 7a is $499, and that's perfectly fine and more than enough. But this is a phone with two screens and the idea is that smartphone sales might be down, but we are all spending more time than ever on our phones. So if you're telling me that if I'm lying in bed reading something on my normal-sized phone screen, but I can now open it up to have more of a newspapery or book-like feel, I'm okay with that, I think that's a great idea. And I think there's lots of uses where... People make fun of me because I'm that guy that brings a portable monitor everywhere I go I was using one at I/O and I was using one at the coffee shop earlier, and so I have a second screen almost all the time because I just feel like I need multiple things to reference. And this is kind of that, the fixed Pixel Fold has a 7.6" screen when you open it up, so you can do multiple apps, split screen, and you get sort of a full screen experience because you get basically two apps side by side and it's great for referencing one thing on one and doing something else on the other. Most of the time I'm doing something like email and calendar, or Slack and something... It just makes sense to me. I like it. It's not going to be for everyone because it is still a very chunky device. Google was sort of saying, "Oh, it's the thinnest folding phone." Yeah, but there's one other folding phone that people are really buying, so it is a little thinner than that, but it's slightly heavier, it's still like a wide phone, I think Samsung's is a lot more tall and narrow. Samsung's is chunkier though. So it'll fit in your pocket a little better, but it's still a folding phone. It's going to be very weird when you're stuffing it in your pocket.

Michael Calore: Maybe your jacket pocket instead of your jeans pocket.

Julian Chokkattu: Right. Yeah, exactly. I'm wearing this jacket, and it has very large pockets, so it'll be fine for me, but not for a lot of other people who have tiny or no pockets most of the time. One of the cool things about the Pixel Fold is being able to use it in different ways that you can't use a traditional phone. So one example was they showed this thing called interpreter mode in Google Translate, and essentially the idea is that you can be talking to your phone screen with Google Translate open and saying something and the person on the opposite end of you will look at the front screen and they'll be able to see the translation in real time. And so then they can just tap a little button and they can say something to your phone screen and then you'll see that response on the inner screen. So it's kind of this smart intuitive way of having a conversation without having to show them your screen and bring it back to you, which I think is a really cool way of utilizing that front screen. And the other one was using the primary camera on the rear of the phone to take a selfie by using the front screen as a viewfinder because you can place the Pixel Fold on a table and it stands up by itself, so you don't need a tripod and you can get the benefit of that much higher resolution image and frame yourself perfectly without having to have your hand in the shot or something like that. So-

Michael Calore: That's very cool.

Julian Chokkattu: ... two cool ways. My only issue is that if this is... you're a software company and this is your big new crazy product, those two seemed kind of like, "That's it? Can you come up with a couple more?" When I was talking to them in the briefing, I was like, "Well, how about a teleprompter mode?" And they were like, "That's a great idea." And I'm like, "Come on, guys."

Lauren Goode: Oh, be careful, Julian, they're going to try to hire you.

Julian Chokkattu: Yeah. But that's what I'm saying, third party developers are going to come up with really cool features like that, but they're going to have to convince them because people are going to have to first buy this phone. And I feel like if they had more features like that out the gate that they came up with instead of leaving it to what other people will figure out, I think that would introduce the idea of buying a folding phone and make it a little more appealing to other people. So if they just came up with a couple more things, I think that would boost the interest in this thing because again, it is 1,799, so really expensive

Michael Calore: And Samsung is going to keep making these things.

Julian Chokkattu: Yeah. And Google was also saying folding phones in general, and if you look at the data, they are still growing, so people are buying them. I don't know if people are buying them because they're just kind of bored with phones and they're like, "Oh, sure, I'll buy that thing." But it's also just kind of a wild Wild West of what form and design works now and what doesn't. And experimenting, flip phones are still... well, the folding flip phones are getting more popular because they're really compact and people like those too. So it'll be interesting to see where other folding devices will go, and it's just kind of... I like it when people try new things with the same kind of thing that we've all been using for a long time.

Michael Calore: Lauren, what did you think of it?

Lauren Goode: I love the Fold.

Michael Calore: Do you?

Lauren Goode: Yeah, I do. I love the idea of the Fold, so far. I like the execution of it, the size of the front screen because other folding phones have these tiny little displays on the front that aren't very useful, Google went all out with that. I like the many cameras, the fact that Google was like, "Fuck it, we're doing three cameras." I love that... We're allowed to swear on podcasts, right? The idea that it's launching with more than 50 optimized apps. Agree with Julian that the translation demo was one of the coolest by far, I saw that in person, two Google product managers, one who was speaking English and the other who was speaking Hindi, and the two of them were having a nearly seamless conversation because the PM who was speaking in English was holding up his folding phone so that the display was facing the woman he was talking to and she was able to see it translated in real time in her language. All that is really cool. I hate the price of the phone, and I sort of hate that we still don't fully understand why Google makes its own hardware. Not that I want them to stop, it's just I would absolutely love to better understand the end game here. So if anyone knows, please DM me.

Michael Calore: Well, I mean I think Pixel in general, if you look at what they've been doing since they launched Pixel, you can see that they're showing the industry and all of their partners how they feel about Android, right?

Lauren Goode: Totally, it's the most optimized version of Android, "Here's what you can do."

Michael Calore: Yeah, and in our world, this is how we see it playing out. So everybody else can be like, "Oh, yeah. Okay, sure." And maybe they adjust their own products or their own software experiences to match that. It hasn't really worked out that way. I still feel like Android feels kind of fragmented. I use a Pixel phone. I've used a Pixel phone since the 2, so I'm on the 6 now, and when I pick up a Samsung phone, it feels more foreign to me than an iPhone does. Do you know what I mean?

Lauren Goode: Oh, that's interesting.

Michael Calore: Yeah. The interactions and the sounds that it makes, and also just the hardware itself, it feels like its own world. The Galaxy line feels like its own world, and it feels like-

Lauren Goode: And then the Pixel has Material You.

Michael Calore: It does. And I really like the interface, and it actually feels closer to iOS than most other Android interfaces.

Julian Chokkattu: So the way I also see it is, for example, I just reviewed the Galaxy A54, which is like Samsung's competitor to the Pixel 7a-

Michael Calore: The budget line-

Julian Chokkattu: Yeah, it's like a $450 phone. And on paper, both of them when you use it feel very similar. There's pretty decent performance on the Samsung, cameras are pretty good. They offer very similar things with a few things here and there that are missing. But the key thing that makes the Pixel feel just a much better phone overall are all those software features that they've been polishing over the course of many years. There's so many of these AI-assisted features, Call Screen, I literally never get a spam call on a Pixel versus when I switch to the Samsung, a couple of times a week I get a spam call. It's the Google Recorder app. When I use a Pixel phon, I love using that app and I love getting the speaker transition. All that stuff is great. And then I use a normal third-party recorder app and I'm just like, "It's fine," on the Samsung. And then things like Now Playing, I use that thing all the time and I'm always checking the Pixel when I'm in a surrounding where there's ambient music and I'm like, "Oh, it's a song," and it already tells me, whereas on the Samsung, I have to open up Assistant or something and say, "What is the song?" And so there's all of these things that are natively just happening on the Pixel that really distinguishes it from the other devices. And so I don't know the answer to why Google is making its own hardware, but that alone feels more different than what even Apple sometimes feels like it's doing because you can't get a lot of those features necessarily happening natively or passively on an iPhone.

Michael Calore: Right. And like you said earlier, the folding phone market is still growing. More and more people are buying them. We know that more companies are going to be making them. So Google making its own folding phone sort of teaches it how a folding screen is going to work in the real world in a way that they may not be able to discern if they're just looking at the way that people are using Samsung devices. So they make their own, they get some people to buy them, a modicum of users where they can study their behaviors and figure out, "Okay, so people really like app switching, and this is the most common way that people app switch," because of course it's Google, of course they're watching what you do on your phone.

Lauren Goode: And these relationships... and the phone market is really interesting in the sense that all of these manufacturers are competing with each other, but they also have really deep relationships with each other like Samsung phones run on Google Android. Google's phones in some instances maybe using Samsung displays. Apple and Google and Samsung may be in competition with each other, but the default search engine on Apple Safari on iPhone may be Google. It is Google. Even though they are competing with each other as they're all making these different products, they're also kind of learning from each other too, which is interesting to think about. Should we talk about the tablet?

Michael Calore: What tablet? There was a tablet?

Lauren Goode: What tablet?

Michael Calore: Oh, wait, the Pixel tablet. So this was something that they showed off last year in 2022, and they said, we're making another Pixel tablet. And I knew this is not the first one, but I think they just called it the Pixel tablet. And then we saw it yesterday, and now it's actually for sale, $500, it comes with a dock, and the dock has a speaker in it, so it kind of turns it into a Nest smart home hub that you can remove the screen of and walk around the house with. What else?

Lauren Goode: Yeah.

Julian Chokkattu: So yeah, I have a lot of mixed feelings on the tablet. I think the idea of it is great, especially as a replacement to a traditional smart display. I have a bunch of Nest Hubs in my house and I feel like it's only just a thing that I use to ask the weather and look at old photos, and that's it. So being able to take it off and also use it while you're on the couch in bed or whatever, I think that's a pretty smart idea. But they also feel like they're kind of limiting the use of this device by making it purely a home device, they don't really want you to leave the house with it. And traditionally, we've all dunked on tablets and Android because the experience is just really bad. I reviewed the OnePlus pad a month ago, and things have changed a lot, it's gotten way nicer to use. And much of that is Google's making because they've been updating a lot of their own apps. As Lauren said before, 50 Google apps are now optimized for larger screen interfaces. And all of that is something visible in Android as a whole in Android 13 and Android 14, it just is much more iPad esque in some ways. There's like a persistent task bar, you can split screen a lot easier. And so I like using Android on a tablet, that was the first time I was like, "Holy crap, this is actually pretty nice." But I also want to take the tablet to leave the house, and Google's like, "Yeah, you can do that, but we're not going to make any accessories." There's no stylus, so you can't really draw with it, which I find that I think a lot of people would like to draw on something like a tablet. They're like, "You can buy your own separate Bluetooth keyboard and use it with the thing to type and do other work if you want to." But I'm like, "Well, I would a custom-made keyboard that I can just flip and fold it up." But they were like, "Well, we'll see." So I don't know, it feels like a weird, interesting device if you were going to buy a smart display, I guess this makes sense. If you're going to buy a smart display and a tablet, then I could see yourself buying this thing. If you have a smart display, I don't see why you would replace it, I don't know. It's a weird product. The price feels a little high to me still, but I'm glad that at least we're getting more Android tablets finally because for the longest time it was just Samsung, Lenovo, and then Apple. It still is mostly Apple in terms of sales but-

Michael Calore: Well, we won't even talk about Amazon's tablets.

Julian Chokkattu: Yeah, well, I know that's a huge market share, but they're not like a joyous experience.

Lauren Goode: Yeah, they're just so inexpensive.

Julian Chokkattu: Yeah, so.

Lauren Goode: Yeah, I tend to agree with everything Julian said about the tablet. I have a Nest Hub in my bedroom, it's a pretty inexpensive thing, I use it for very basic tasks. Would I pay $500 to have something that's mostly going to be used as another Nest Hub, and then occasionally I would take it off its dock and use it as a tablet, but not have a keyboard with it? Yeah, what I use my iPad for is entertainment, and then I take it with me when I'm traveling in case I need to do work because it has a great accessory keyboard. Google is really focusing this tablet on the home. And then the question becomes, do you want to pay $500 for that in-home tablet experience?

Julian Chokkattu: I will say that the experience of having multiple users on the tablet was really cool because obviously this is a home tablet, so let's say you have four other people in the house, you can easily just tap a little button and then switch your profile to your own profile and it changes everything. So the entire wallpaper, your custom app settings and all that kind of stuff, the logins and everything switches over to your profile, very simple and seamless way, and I think that isn't something that you often see, it's a little clunky on other platforms. So that seems like the smartest thing because this is going to be a home tablet and my wife is going to want to use it maybe this day and I'm going to want to use it, and then we don't have to have switch accounts constantly and switch apps and all that kind of stuff. So I thought that was really cool, but-

Michael Calore: Do that thing where you open up the bio authentication in the settings and you each record your thumb prints, so both of your thumbprints are stored in it.

Lauren Goode: It sounds like a real bonding moment.

Michael Calore: It is.

Lauren Goode: In the modern era.

Michael Calore: It is technology. All right, well we have to pause here, but before we do, I just want to mention that we published a lot of stories out of I/O and people should read all of them. You can find all of them at Julian did a review of the Pixel 7a, and he has hands-on impressions of the Pixel Fold. Lauren wrote about all of the new AI features that are showing up in Android. Boone, our producer, who's over there with his headphones on, wrote about the reasons why Google might be making a folding phone and what their strategy is in the long term. We also have stories from the business desk from Will Knight, from Khari Johnson, from Steven Levy, news and analysis out of I/O. So definitely check all of it out. All right, now let's take a break and when we come back we'll do our recommendations.


Michael Calore: All right. This is the last part of our show where we go through our recommendations for things that people should check out. Julian, you get to go first, what is your recommendation?

Julian Chokkattu: Well, I am going on my honeymoon on Saturday, which is very soon, and I'm going to Japan for two and a half weeks, so my recommendation is to just leave your work and go do something else for two and a half weeks, if you can, obviously not everyone has luxury to do that. But just I was thinking of uninstalling Slack, just completely going a little extreme and just not even checking in because I have a tendency to, I think Mike knows this, look at Slack when I'm technically off.

Michael Calore: Yes, you do.

Julian Chokkattu: But yeah, so I'm just going to... And also, might I also suggest that The Legend of Zelda, which we have a review of the new Tears of the Kingdom on is coming out tomorrow, right before I have a 16-hour flight, so it's really great for me. And I think you should also take the weekend to maybe play that if you have a Switch.

Michael Calore: Very nice.

Lauren Goode: That sounds amazing. What parts of Japan are you going to?

Julian Chokkattu: I am going to Tokyo, Sapporo, and then Hiroshima, and then Fukuoka, which is the tonkotsu capital of the Ramen style, so I'm going to go to eat there and get some... It's just a food trip.

Michael Calore: Yes, okonomiyaki.

Julian Chokkattu: Yes... On your recommendation, I'm going to get to see a baseball game in Hiroshima.

Michael Calore: Nice, the Carp?

Julian Chokkattu: Yeah.

Michael Calore: Oh, it's so good.

Julian Chokkattu: And apparently they go crazy in the stadium, it's just a completely different vibe from what you would expect at a baseball game, so very excited for that too.

Michael Calore: Yep.

Lauren Goode: That's awesome. Does your wife know that you are positioning this as a food trip versus a honeymoon?

Julian Chokkattu: Oh, that was, I would say, her idea.

Lauren Goode: Oh, okay. Great. Match made in heaven then.

Julian Chokkattu: She's like a foodie, and she knows everything, and she knows exactly what she wants. So yeah, no, overall, this is our second time to Japan, so I think this is more... I haven't planned anything, so I know where I'm going, but it's kind of just like, "I guess we'll figure it out."

Lauren Goode: That's awesome.

Julian Chokkattu: Yeah.

Michael Calore: Sugoi.

Julian Chokkattu: Thank you. Yes.

Lauren Goode: I realized that a lot of people I knew or knew peripherally were going to Japan in the past month, and I was a little befuddled by it like, "Oh, okay, it's cherry blossom season." At one point I was like, "Is this a bunch of people who work in AI or going for some reason?" because people were meeting with the prime minister to talk about AI. And then I realized it's because it's actually... it's open to tourists again without having to follow any rigid Covid protocols, right?

Julian Chokkattu: Yeah.

Lauren Goode: That's the thing that's changed recently.

Julian Chokkattu: That changed late last year, and as of I think four days ago, you officially don't need to show them a negative Covid test. I think they still check your temperature and that kind of stuff and check if you have a vaccination, but it is way easier to get in now because there was a period where they were only letting you go if you followed a guide. I don't think a lot of people want to walk completely around Japan with a specific guide to monitor what they're doing and whether their face mask is on all the time, which hopefully it should be. But yeah, it's just a lot easier now.

Lauren Goode: Cool.

Michael Calore: Lauren, what is your recommendation?

Lauren Goode: My recommendation is a book that my wonderful podcast co-host got me for my birthday.

Michael Calore: Aw.

Lauren Goode: Thanks, Mike.

Michael Calore: Oh, the book I got you?

Lauren Goode: The book you got me, yes.

Michael Calore: I thought you meant the one that Gideon got you.

Lauren Goode: Gideon has not yet bought me a book. I'm waiting on that one. Gideon, if you're listening... He's not, he doesn't listen to this show, he's busy with our other show. The book is called Still Pictures, it's written by Janet Malcolm. Janet Malcolm was a longtime New Yorker writer, she wrote for the New Yorker for many years, starting back in 1963. She died in 2021, and she covered a lot of subjects, she covered art, photography, crime. But this is a memoir, and it's really more of a series of vignettes based on old photographs, every chapter starts with an old photograph. And a lot of it is focused on her family's experiences, Czech immigrants living in New York City. And what's interesting about it is the memories that each photo sparks are kind of incomplete for her. She has these very hazy remembrances of her parents' friends or neighbors in their Czech community, and maybe she remembers more of her childlike judgment of the adults around her more than she actually remembers them as people. But part of the memoir is really about becoming comfortable with that incompleteness. It's just a really beautiful work on memory. And her daughter actually wrote the very last chapter because Malcolm died before it was done, but I really enjoyed it and I highly recommend it. So that's still pictures by Janet Malcolm. Maybe if you have a 16-hour flight coming up, you might enjoy it.

Julian Chokkattu: I should take that with me.

Michael Calore: Very nice.

Lauren Goode: Mike, what's your recommendation?

Michael Calore: Well, this is not spon-con, but I do want to recommend a pair of headphones that I have been wearing and actually really enjoying, and it's been a while since I've recommended a gadget on the Gadget Lab, but since we talked about phones and tablets this week, it feels so good, I have to celebrate that by also recommending a gadget. These are true wireless headphones or wire-free headphones. They're earbuds that connect via Bluetooth and are not connected in any way. What are we calling these things? Wire free?

Lauren Goode: Buds.

Julian Chokkattu: I think they're just wireless earbuds at this point.

Michael Calore: Wireless earbuds, we all know what those words mean. These are the JBL Reflect Aero. So they're workout headphones, they're $150, they're waterproof, they have little wings to keep them in your ears. I've used a lot of these things over the years, and these JBLs I keep coming back to. We have some headphone guides, and I just recently wrote them up for inclusion in a buying guide for headphones because I've just been enjoying using them so much. But also, one of the reasons I wanted to recommend these in particular is because JBL also just put out its Tour 2 headphones, which are the headphones that have a case that has a touchscreen on it. And I think that's really cool that you can get headphones that have a touchscreen on the case. So you can use a touchscreen for volume for sound settings to see incoming phone calls and texts, and then accept the phone call or hang up a phone call. But everybody's laughing at me for liking this.

Lauren Goode: Yeah, I'm going to go back to basic journalistic principles which is, why?

Julian Chokkattu: I was going to ask-

Michael Calore: Because it's cool.

Julian Chokkattu: ... how often are you walking around with the case in your hand though, right?

Michael Calore: In my pocket.

Julian Chokkattu: But if I'm getting a call, you would just check your phone or maybe the earbuds would say-

Michael Calore: But would I if I had the option not to?

Lauren Goode: I could see that being useful if you're a gym person and so you're on a piece of equipment or on a bench, and then you don't have your phone out, but you have the headphone case out, maybe. This is a very specific...

Julian Chokkattu: Who's carrying the case in that situation too, right? I don't know, it's very... I could see some utility, but I also understand the laughing at this thing because it has a screen on it.

Michael Calore: I don't know, I think it's wonderful. I think it's delightful.

Lauren Goode: With the battery life on the case with the screen, wouldn't that suck up battery life?

Michael Calore: It does, yes. But if you can imagine the case is a little bit larger because it has a screen on it, so I think they use the extra space that they gain by putting a screen on a headphone case. Maybe they fill that with battery and I don't really know. I think we are testing them. I'm not testing them, but I think somebody at WIRED is testing them and we'll know the answers, I think, to these questions maybe a little bit more clearly in the near future. But that's also a JBL product, so I couldn't let this go by without mentioning it.

Julian Chokkattu: But you're not recommending that one technically now?

Michael Calore: No. I like the Reflect Aero headphones.

Lauren Goode: So you are recommending those?

Michael Calore: Oh, yeah, they're great.

Lauren Goode: You've gone running with them?

Michael Calore: I really like them, I wear them running. I wear them when I do yoga in the morning. When I do yoga in the morning. I wear them on long walks, so I use them for podcasts, for music, I use them to make phone calls. And I really like them. Like I said, I've tried a lot of these things and they all just have weird stuff about them like the controls are not customizable, or the sound doesn't have enough settings or the ANC, the active noise canceling is always on. I hate all those things about headphones. I want full control over what it sounds like. I want full control over what happens when I touch the touch sensitive parts, and I want them to fit well and not fall out of my ears when I'm sweating and running around. And these do all of that, so I really like them.

Julian Chokkattu: Nice.

Lauren Goode: Great. How much?

Michael Calore: 150 bucks.

Lauren Goode: All right.

Michael Calore: $150. I think you can get them cheaper, that's just the manufacturer suggested retail price, but...

Lauren Goode: Nice.

Michael Calore: Yes.

Lauren Goode: Yeah, for 10 of those, you can get a Pixel Fold.

Michael Calore: Yeah.

Julian Chokkattu: I can't wait.

Michael Calore: All right. Well, that is our show for this week. Julian, thank you for flying out to California to be here with us.

Julian Chokkattu: Of course, thank you for having me.

Lauren Goode: Awesome having you in studio. Come back again soon-

Julian Chokkattu: I'll try.

Lauren Goode: ... maybe WWDC.

Julian Chokkattu: Debatable.

Michael Calore: Debatable. And have fun in Japan.

Julian Chokkattu: Thank you.

Michael Calore: And thank you all for listening. If you have feedback, you can find all of us on Twitter or Bluesky, for the cool people on the show, just check the show notes. Our producer is Boone Ashworth. We will be back next week. Until then, goodbye.

[Gadget Lab outro theme music plays]

Lauren Goode: OK, 3, 2, 1. Mike, what's your recommendation?

[Everyone suddenly laughs.]

Michael Calore: Oh, Jesus.

Lauren Goode: Oh my god.

Michael Calore: All right.