If you own a pair of Google’s true wireless Pixel Buds headphones, a software update is on its way to make them a little more intelligent and considerably more convenient. It will add a selection of new features designed to make the Buds more aware of what’s going on around them. This should improve their usefulness without increasing the need to interact with them or an app, or to learn any new control gestures.
Take sharing detection as an example. With the feature active, the Pixel Buds know when you’ve given one earbud to a friend, and will allow each person to individually adjust the volume. Now, if your friend wants to see how loud it can get, you don’t have to be part of the experiment. A new bass boost feature has been added to the Pixel Buds settings page too.
Google Assistant has learned some new commands in the update. The virtual assistant will tell you how much battery life remains when you ask it, and will turn the touch controls on and off without the need to visit the app. The Pixel Buds have become more aware of their surroundings through Attention Alerts. The feature will automatically drop the volume if it registers an emergency siren blaring, a baby crying, or a dog barking. It’s probably going to be less helpful if you happen to live near a noisy canine though.
Attention Alerts is similar to the so-called transparency modes found on other headphones, which lets the sound of the world into your headphones so you can stay aware of your surroundings, but it greatly affects sound quality. Having the Pixel Buds do the listening and then alert you is an interesting alternative. However, Google calls this an experimental feature, which likely means it’s still being fine-tuned. The Find My Device feature is also getting a visual update, where your lost Buds’ last known position will show up on a map in the app.
Finally, a new transcription mode now complements the existing conversation translate mode. This adds an onscreen transcription of a translated conversation, so you can read as well as listen to what’s being said. It supports translation of English into French, German, Italian, and Spanish.
It’s great to see Google support the $179 Pixel Buds with new features. The software update will be sent out starting August 20, but be patient as it may take some time to reach your headphones.