Google explained the Pixel 8 sound design, like the use of gen AI for ‘Gems’

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The latest Made by Google episode (S5 E2) goes into sound (and haptics) design on Pixel devices.

At a high level, the sounds are meant to reflect the Google Pixel design principles that are “simple,” “human,” and “light.” The goal is to “relieve the information load we’re putting on the visual domain on other senses”, such as sound and haptics.

The latest example of his work is the “Gems” collection of ringtones, notification sounds and alarm sounds. Introduced with the Pixel 8 series and made available for all devices, Generative AI was used as a “collaborative partner”.

“All the sounds in this collection are created using Google Music FX, a creative AI model that turns text input into music.”

Originally from MusicLM, MusicFX is available for you to experiment with in the AI ‚Äč‚Äčtest kitchen.

It started with a hint. In the case of “Amber Beats”, it was: “Behind the groovy bass line, there’s an atmospheric pad synth, which adds depth to the track. The bouncy drums stand out with a distinctly glassy hit-dominant sound. There are layers.”

The audio designer was particularly impressed by the two-second snippets of the 30-second clip that were produced: “I took that audio clip and started changing it rhythmically and melodically, creating an original idea that I It felt authentic.”

“Our goal with the James Sound Collection was to explore how Google’s in-house tools can unlock creative inspiration and expression and provide a hopeful glimpse into that future.”

It joins other ways of making sounds. For example, the Pixel Camera’s shutter sound was originally inspired by the opening and closing of scissors, which was “used as the basis for manipulating the final sound you hear today.” Another consideration in this case is to make sure that “the shutter motion you’re seeing on the screen fits very well with the sound you’re hearing.”

Another factor is ensuring that sounds can be heard in all the noisy environments we use our devices in, as well as the actual hardware constraints. Correcting for form factors is another consideration.

“If it’s a ringtone, I want to make sure it’s going to sound really good in my house, but it’s also going to sound really good on the road. And then we optimize the sound for the hardware. So we do any orchestration or EQ or whatever, any kind of changes that need to be made to make the sound sound as good as possible on the actual device.

Google also touched on the process of updating the default “Big Adventure” ringtone to “Your New Adventure” in 2021:

So I would say with Your New Adventure Sound, that was where we had a hard time getting that transition that we have from this kind of slow, mellow state to a faster, livelier pace and sound. We worked on it a lot, and that was where it was a long iterative process of trying to get it right.

Another innovation was the “popcorn” default notification sound that was being modernized in “Eureka”.

Namely, sound designers come up with a “musical or aesthetic description” of each clip and then a different team (UX Content Strategy) names it based on that.

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