The Pixel Tablet has been a bit of a head-scratcher since its debut. There are things to like about it for sure, but it’s overall utility has never been fully realized; and overall, it tends to feel like Google pushed this device out the door a bit faster than they should have. With few standout traits, you’d be forgiven for passing on the Pixel Tablet altogether. But Google is adding some features that lean into this device’s strengths and pull from the Nest Hub Max in ways that should have been there since launch.
Found hidden in the code for the Google app update version 14.43 by 9to5 Google, we’re seeing additions of both “Look and Talk” alongside “Quick Gestures” support; both additions that were previously part of the Nest Hub Max experience. These add-on features will be part of the Pixel Tablet’s Hub Mode that is activated when it is on the included speaker dock.
“Look and Talk”
“Look and Talk” is a feature that removes the need for a vocal prompts to activate the (hopefully far more useful soon) Google Assistant. By merely looking at the device from a distance of up to 5 feet, users can initiate vocal commands. This feature is especially handy for those messy kitchen scenarios or when your hands are otherwise occupied. If you’re concerned about unintended Google Assistant eavesdropping, a simple toggle allows you to turn off this function while the tablet is docked.
“Quick Gestures” will soon come into play on the Pixel Tablet as well to offer a more tactile interaction with your device. A casual wave in front of the tablet’s camera can alter media playback, providing a bit of control without actually touching the device. Again, the Nest Hub 2 and Nest Hub Max already have some of these features, allowing users to stop music, dismiss alarms, or stop Google Assistant from talking. And with the stark similarity between the look of the docked Pixel Tablet and Nest Hub Max, we all just assumed this stuff would be along for the ride initially.
The future promise of the Pixel Tablet
The Pixel Tablet’s debut was an odd one that was not helped whatsoever by the initial lack of these interactive features. Mix that with some hardware shortcomings like underutilized interior space that could have housed a larger battery or the underpowered Tensor 2 SoC and you easily see why this tablet has been met with lukewarm interest.
But these upcoming features could be a few essential steps toward bridging the functionality gap between what we expect from the Pixel Tablet and what it currently does. I’ve said it since the beginning: the Pixel Tablet has a few, key differentiators that aren’t the most helpful things in the world right now. But that could change.
Once Bard gets integrated with the Google Assistant and expected Nest Hub features begin to actually show up to make the docked Pixel Tablet a solid smart display, the fortunes of this tablet could change dramatically. But Google needs to fully lean into what makes the Pixel Tablet special. It isn’t processing power or utility. It’s Google Assistant and the speaker dock. So far, those haven’t made much of an impact, but there’s still time for that to change.