Google’s big AI event takeaways

Google recently hosted its annual event for software developers, where it showcased new AI features for web search, Docs and Bard. While the company is playing catch-up to rivals in conversational artificial intelligence, the preview of new features was a reminder of key advantages it holds with billions of users who type an unfathomable amount of text into Google’s products, from its search engine to Google Docs. Here are four takeaways from the event:

  • Google kept its chatbot separate from web search. Google has already announced a standalone conversational chatbot, Bard, but the company has apparently decided not to incorporate it into its search engine. Instead, Google announced new “experimental AI” features for search, codenamed Magi, that try to answer complex search queries. Bard was nowhere to be seen within the new version of Google Search. Google’s approach stood in contrast to Microsoft’s incorporation of an OpenAI-powered chatbot into Bing search, which started in February.
  • Google’s AI features and developer tools largely mirrored those of Microsoft and OpenAI. Google followed Microsoft’s lead by announcing new AI features for productivity software, such as the ability to ask Google’s AI for help in writing a story in Docs. Google also showed features for users to ask the AI to read notes they typed in Docs to help them organize it or tease out insights. Google separately said that cloud customers would soon be able to use new AI software models to generate images or automatically create computer code.
  • Google officially disclosed the existence of Gemini, a large-language model aimed at rivaling OpenAI’s GPT, which powers ChatGPT. Gemini also aims to improve on Google’s PaLM 2 machine-learning model, which powers Bard and other conversational AI the company announced on Wednesday. Gemini may end up being one of the biggest and most compute-intensive AI models ever created.
  • Google Cloud notched a notable AI customer win. Major cloud providers have been wooing startups that develop AI software, given that some of them could turn into major customers. Google appeared to nab one of Oracle’s prized AI startup customers, Character AI. The startup, founded by former Google researchers who developed some of the company’s key AI technology, lets people converse with chatbots in the style of fictional characters or real-world figures such as Elon Musk. Google said during its event that Google Cloud would be Character’s “preferred” provider.

While Google’s new AI features are not more advanced than what rivals have already launched, the company has key advantages with billions of users who use its products. Google’s approach to incorporating conversational AI into its products is different from Microsoft’s incorporation of an OpenAI-powered chatbot into Bing search. Google is playing catch-up to rivals, but it is still investing heavily in AI and has recently disclosed the existence of Gemini, a large-language model aimed at rivaling OpenAI’s GPT. Google Cloud’s notable AI customer wins also show that the company is making progress in wooing startups that develop AI software.

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