Google is setting the stage for a global artificial intelligence (AI) showdown as it propels its generative AI system, Bard, into 180 countries, directly competing with Microsoft’s ChatGPT. The announcement was made at Google’s annual developer conference in Silicon Valley, where executives outlined their ambitious strategy to integrate generative AI into all of Google’s core products, including its flagship search engine.
“We’ve been incorporating AI technology for a while now, but the application of generative AI marks a significant leap forward,” said Sundar Pichai, Google’s Chief Executive, to the assembled developers.
The move comes as Google strives to keep pace with Microsoft, which has already begun leveraging ChatGPT-like capabilities across an array of its products, including Bing, despite concerns over the societal implications of AI, ranging from disinformation propagation to the obsolescence of entire job categories.
Cathy Edwards, of Google Search, likened the new search experience to one that is “supercharged” by an interactive bot. The company also revealed plans to integrate generative AI into Gmail, photo editing tools, and a host of online work applications.
Jack Krawczyk, Google’s senior product director, assured that the company would proceed with its AI integration both boldly and responsibly. Google’s expansion has enabled it to lift the waitlist for Bard, opening access for users around the globe to engage with it in English, after months of extensive testing in the US and the UK. Plans to support 40 additional languages in the coming months were also revealed.
Krawczyk shared his enthusiasm about the prospects of Bard, saying, “We’re pretty fired up about where Bard is going.”
Google also unveiled browser “extensions” that will integrate AI features into apps and services like Gmail and Maps. The technology will provide users with automatic text completion to aid in drafting emails and generate artwork suggestions based on photos of available supplies.
Krawczyk also mentioned partnerships that will allow the development of similar extensions, such as Adobe’s forthcoming feature enabling users to generate images.
Google showcased its new Pixel devices, featuring a $1,799 foldable smartphone with a tablet-sized bendable screen. Rick Osterloh, Google’s Senior Vice President of Devices, lauded the device, saying it offers “the best of both worlds.”
The announcement comes on the heels of Microsoft’s expansion of public access to its AI programs powered by OpenAI, the creator of ChatGPT. Analysts are viewing this as a crucial moment in the AI arms race, with Dan Ives of Wedbush stating that Google is playing “major catch-up” to Microsoft’s early investment in OpenAI.
AI has not been without its critics. There are significant concerns surrounding its misuse for disinformation, including voice cloning, deepfake videos, and convincing written messages. Recently, over 1,000 signatories, including Elon Musk and Steve Wozniak, called for a halt in the development of powerful AI systems to ensure their safety. Geoffrey Hinton, a prominent computer scientist and AI pioneer, resigned from Google to voice his concerns about the potential dangers of AI, emphasizing that the existential threat from AI is “serious and close.”