Google is pressing forward with plans to add AI conversation features to its primary search engine as it attempts to keep up with a surge of new artificial intelligence tools that might challenge the company’s online dominance for the first time in decades.

On Wednesday, the firm announced the next iteration of Google Search, which would use an AI-powered chatbot to answer questions “you never thought Search could answer” and help consumers find the information they need faster than ever before.

The appearance and feel of Google Search results will be considerably different after the upgrade. When users enter a query into the main search box, a pop-up containing an AI-generated response will appear alongside traditional results.

Users can now sign up for a waitlist for the new Google Search, which will initially be available in the United States, either the Google app or Chrome’s desktop browser. According to the corporation, it will be available to a restricted number of consumers in the following weeks.

The upgrades were announced at I/O, Google’s annual developer conference, which focused on a combination of AI and hardware technologies. Google also revealed PaLM 2, its latest AI language model to compete with ChatGPT inventor OpenAI’s GPT-4, at the event. The move represents a significant advancement for the technology that underlies the company’s AI products and promises to improve logic, common sense reasoning, and mathematics. It can also produce customized code in a variety of computer languages.

Following the viral success of ChatGPT, Google’s competitors, including Microsoft, are rushing to develop and implement AI features in search engines and productivity products. The overwhelming interest in ChatGPT forced Google’s executives to declare a “code red” crisis for its search company.

In addition to the search adjustments, Google is expanding access to its current chatbot Bard, which can assist users do things like outline and compose essay drafts, plan a friend’s baby shower, and receive lunch suggestions based on what’s in the fridge. The tool, which was previously available exclusively through a waitlist to early users in the United States, will soon be open to all users in 120 countries and 40 languages.

Google is also launching Bard extensions from its own services, such as Gmail, Sheets, and Docs, letting users to ask questions and collaborate with the chatbot directly within the programs they’re using.

However, adopting AI chatbots carries inherent hazards. These tools have raised worries about tone and accuracy, the latter of which is especially crucial for Google’s online search engine, which has long been the company’s mainstay.

Playing with the new Google search
The AI search tool answered queries on why bees are so crucial to our ecosystem, whether the Sound Hotel in Portland, Oregon had Peloton bikes (it does), and what are some local chess camps for kids in a couple of seconds in CNN’s virtual preview of the program ahead of Wednesday’s release.

The application crawls webpages, retrieves relevant information, and neatly bundles it at the top of the results page, noting the sources in a separate area.

However, it isn’t flawless; in one search for “best pizza places in New York City,” the results included businesses from San Francisco.

Google’s VP of search, Cathy Edwards, told CNN that it’s still “very early on” and that the business will continue to make improvements in the coming weeks and months.

“We really want to learn and… work out the kinks,” Edwards explained. “We don’t want to share this experience with everyone until we’re certain we’ve nailed it.”

Unlike ChatGPT, Snapchat’s My AI tool, and Bard, Google’s search tool is intentionally devoid of a “persona.”

“We made a deliberate decision for it to only reflect information from the web,” Edwards explained. “It will not respond with ‘I think’ or express opinions on things.” It does not feel like many other chatbots on the market.”

However, if you’ve spent months using other tools, this decision can be disorienting. Unlike other chatbots, when CNN asked Google’s tool for advice on how to manage work and life with children at home, it offered no words of empathy or connection for the daily juggle.

The new Google Search also has a Perspectives feature, which shows what other people are buying or thinking about and incorporates that into search results. Another feature, About This Image, analyzes data about an image, allowing users to inquire about when Google first saw the image and whether it exists on other websites. “A level of understanding of an image rather than taking it at face value,” Edwards said of the feature.

‘A 25-year search trip’
These efforts demonstrate Google’s determination to moving forward with AI, despite the fact that the technology underpinning it has raised concerns.

Google was called out in March after a demo of Bard produced an incorrect answer to a query regarding a telescope. Alphabet, Google’s parent company, plummeted 7.7% that day, knocking off $100 billion from its market worth.

Microsoft’s AI chatbot was also chastised for mistakes in a showcase.

The new Google Search and Bard, like ChatGPT, are based on a broad language model. They are trained on massive amounts of data from the internet in order to provide persuasive responses to user questions, but these tools are also known to get answers wrong or “hallucinate” answers.

Google previously told CNN that Bard will be a different, complimentary experience to Google Search, with the intention of “thoughtfully” adding huge language models to search “in a deeper way” in the future.

“We’ve been on a 25-year journey for search, and it still remains such an unsolved problem,” Edwards added. “The next long arc, which will be measured in decades, will be this, so we want to be bold but responsible, and get it right.”


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