Google has plans to add AI chat to its search engine. The company is trying to keep up with the wave of new AI tools that threaten to undermine the company's online dominance for the first times in decades.
The company announced on Wednesday that it will introduce the next evolution of Google Search. It will use a chatbot powered by AI to answer questions you 'never thought Search could answer.' This will help users get the information they need faster than ever.
Google Search will look and feel different after the update. Users will see an AI-generated pop-up in the main search bar when they type their query.
Sign up now for Google Search via Chrome desktop or the Google app. According to the company, a limited number of users will be able to access it in the next few weeks.
Updates were revealed at I/O - Google's annual developer conference. The event focused on AI and hardware. Google announced PaLM 2 at the event. It is Google's latest AI language model, which competes with OpenAI GPT-4. This is a major step for the AI technology behind Google's products. It promises to improve logic, common-sense reasoning and mathematics. It can generate code in different languages.
Google's management declared a "code red" situation for their search business after the massive attention that ChatGPT received.
Google will also expand access to Bard, its chatbot that operates outside of the search engine. Bard can assist users with tasks like drafting essay drafts, planning a friend's shower and getting lunch ideas based off what is in the refrigerator. The tool was only available in the US to early users on a waiting list. It will now be available in 120 countries in 40 languages.
Google has also launched extensions for Bard in its own apps, including Gmail, Sheets, and Docs. This allows users to collaborate and ask questions with the chatbot directly within their app.
AI chatbots are not without risk. These tools have raised concerns over tone and accuracy. The latter is particularly important for Google's online search engine, which has been the cornerstone of its business for many years.
Google Search: Hands-on with the New Google Search
The AI tool was demonstrated by CNN in advance of the announcement on Wednesday. It answered questions in seconds, such as why bees are so important for our ecosystem, if the Sound Hotel, Portland, Oregon, has Peloton bicycles (it does), and which local chess camp is best for children.
The tool searches websites for related information, and then packages it at the top of results pages, with the sources highlighted in a separate section.
It's not perfect. In one search, the results included restaurants from San Francisco.
Cathy Edwards is Google's VP for Search. She told CNN it was still'very soon' in the process and that the company would continue to change things over the coming weeks and months.
Edwards stated that he wanted to 'learn and... iron out any kinks'. Edwards said, 'We won't share this experience with everyone until we are confident that we've got it right.'
Google's Search Tool is intentionally devoid of any 'persona', unlike other chatbots such as ChatGPT and Snapchat's My AI Tool.
Edwards explained that the decision was made to have it only display information from the internet. It won't say 'I believe' or give opinions about things. It's not like other chatbots.
If you've been using another tool for months, this choice may be jarring. Google's chatbot did not offer any empathy or understanding when CNN asked it for advice on how to balance life and work with kids at home.
Google Search now includes a new Perspectives feature that shows what people are thinking or buying, and factors this into the results. A tool called About This Image understands the facts of an image. Users can ask about when Google saw the image and if it appeared on other websites. Edwards explained that the feature is designed to give users a better understanding of images rather than just taking them at face value.
"A 25-year search for truth"
These efforts show Google's commitment in moving forward with AI, even though the technology that underpins it has raised concerns.
Google was criticized in March after Bard's demo gave an incorrect answer to a question regarding a telescope. The shares of Alphabet, the parent company of Google, fell 7.7% on that day. This wiped $100 billion from its market value.
Microsoft's AI bot was also called out on errors in a demonstration.
The new Google Search, like ChatGPT is built on a large-language model. These tools are trained to respond to user requests using vast amounts of online data. However, they are known to make mistakes or "hallucinate" answers.
Google told CNN previously that Bard will be a complementary search experience and plans to add large language models 'in a more thoughtful way' in the future.
Edwards stated that despite a 25-year search for answers, the problem remains unsolved. Edwards said that the next long arc will be measured by decades. We want to be brave, but also responsible.