Google Reaffirms Its IC Prominence with Reimagined Core Products

Category Artificial Intelligence

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Google's I/O conference yesterday highlighted the company's commitment to AI-driven core products and the added importance of internal responsibility regulations. Many demos were featured, ranging from Gmail to Google Photos and a new G2 AI processor.Google CEO Sundar Pichai made it clear what the company was focusing on - not a new phone, but AI. Deeper integration into both the Android OS and Google's existing products with more than 2 billion users is the company's clear focus. This could be seen as a flex from the company, in order to answer the criticisms that Microsoft Bing and OpenAI are outdoing them. Even with this flex, there was a focus on internally responsible AI development.

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Things got weird at yesterday's Google I/O conference right from the jump, when the duck hit the stage.

The day began with a musical performance described as a "generative AI experiment featuring Dan Deacon and Google's MusicLM, Phenaki, and Bard AI tools." It wasn't clear exactly how much of it was machine-made and how much was human. There was a long, lyrically rambling dissertation about meeting a duck with lips. Deacon informed the audience that we were all in a band called Chiptune and launched into a song with various chiptune riffs layered on top of each other. Later he had a song about oat milk? I believe the lyrics were entirely AI generated. Someone wearing a duck suit with lipstick came out and danced on stage. It was all very confusing.

The G2 Processor, announced at the conference is the first CPU to be designed solely for AI optimization

Yet when Google CEO Sundar Pichai, who once ran the company's efforts with Android, stepped on stage, he made it clear what he was there to talk about. It wasn't a new phone—it was AI. He opened by going straight at the ways AI is in everything the company does now. With generative AI, he said, "we are reimagining all our core products, including Search."I don't think that's quite right.

The company made this point in one demo after another, all morning long. A Gmail demo showed how generative AI can compose an elaborate email to an airline to help you get a refund. The new Magic Editor in Google Photos will not only remove unwanted elements but reposition people and objects in photos, make the sky brighter and bluer, and then adjust the lighting in the photo so that all that doctoring looks natural.

The AI applications announced at the conference ranged from summarizing emails to creating complex spreadsheets

In Docs, the AI will create a full job description from just a few words. It will generate spreadsheets. Help you plan your vacation in Search, adjust the tone of your text messages to be more professional (or more personable), give you an "immersive view" in Maps, summarize your email, write computer code, seamlessly translate lip-sync videos. It is so deeply integrated into not only the Android operating system but the hardware itself that Google now makes "the only phone with AI at its center," as Google's Rick Osterloh said in describing the G2 chip. Phew.

Google CEO Sundar Pitchai has been behind many of the company's AI-based projects, such as its work with Android

Google I/O is a highly, highly scripted event. For months now the company has faced criticism that its AI efforts were being outpaced by the likes of OpenAI's ChatGPT or Microsoft Bing. Alarm bells were sounding internally, too. Today felt like a long-planned answer to that. Taken together, the demos came across as a kind of flex—a way to show what the company has under the hood and how it can deploy that technology throughout its existing, massively popular products (Pichai noted that the company has five different products with more than 2 billion users).

Google's Magic Editor is claimed to be make photo editing more intelligent and user-friendly

And yet at the same time, it is clearly trying to walk a line, showing off what it can do but in ways that won't, you know, freak everyone out.

And so, I/O yesterday was a far cry from the event in 2018, when the company gleefully demonstrated Duplex, showcasing how Google Assistant could make automated calls to small businesses without ever letting the people on those calls know they were interacting with an AI. It was an incredible demo. And one that made very many people deeply uneasy.

This year's Google I/O Event was the most AI-central to date

Again and again at this year's I/O, we heard about responsibility. James Manyika, who leads the company's technology and sociomedical analysis, offered this quotation from poet Robert Burns: “The best laid schemes o' Mice an' Men, Gang aft agley.” He said, it's true for generative AI and for companies like Google using it.

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