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Google rolls out Gemini AI updates as competition heats up


A logo is pictured at Google's European Engineering Center in Zurich, Switzerland. /Reuters
A logo is pictured at Google's European Engineering Center in Zurich, Switzerland. /Reuters

A logo is pictured at Google's European Engineering Center in Zurich, Switzerland. /Reuters

Google parent Alphabet on Tuesday showed how it is building on artificial intelligence (AI) across its businesses, including a beefed-up Gemini chatbot and improvements to its prized search engine as it races to compete with AI rivals.

The product presentation at Google's annual I/O developer event in Mountain View, California, U.S., followed a shorter showcase by rival OpenAI on Monday. OpenAI demonstrated how ChatGPT could voice answers with human-like intonation to any written or visual prompt. The startup's CEO, Sam Altman, wrote that OpenAI had delivered software that "feels like AI from the movies."

Among Google's latest salvos was an addition to its family of Gemini 1.5 AI models known as Flash that is faster and cheaper to run; a prototype called Project Astra, which can talk to users about anything captured on their smartphone camera in real time; and search results categorized under AI-generated headlines.

"This is a moment of growth and opportunity," Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai told reporters, when asked if the AI updates could risk Google's profitable business.

Google announced the private preview of a new version of Gemini 1.5 Pro, the company's current flagship model, that can take in up to 2 million tokens. With that capacity, which doubles the previous maximum amount, the new version of Gemini 1.5 Pro supports the largest input of any commercially available model.

"Today, all of our 2-billion user products use Gemini ... More than 1.5 million developers use Gemini models across our tools ... We've also been bringing Gemini's breakthrough capabilities across our products, in powerful ways," Pichai told the conference, adding that "the power of Gemini, with multi-modality, long context and agents, brings us closer to our ultimate goal: making AI helpful for everyone."

The company brings the improved version of Gemini 1.5 Pro to all developers globally. In addition, Gemini 1.5 Pro with 1 million context is now directly available for consumers in Gemini Advanced, which can be used across 35 languages, Google said.

New chip, new search

Google also shed light on its efforts to power AI with new computing chips and revamp its namesake search engine.

The company announced a sixth-generation tensor processing unit (TPU), called Trillium, which aims to give it and its Google Cloud customers an alternative to industry heavyweight Nvidia's powerful processors. The new chip will be available to its cloud customers in late 2024, according to Google.

"Trillium is our most performant and most efficient TPU to date ... We'll make Trillium available to our Cloud customers in late 2024," said the company CEO.

Meanwhile, for U.S. users of Google search browsing the web in English, the company said it soon will use AI to help organize search results for queries on dining, recipes, and eventually movies, books and other content.

Also for Google search, the company is rolling out AI Overviews to all users in the U.S. this week, after a long period of public testing since last year's I/O event. The feature uses generative AI to synthesize information and answer more complex queries for which there is no simple answer on the web.

Analyst Jacob Bourne of eMarketer said, "The AI Overviews launch reception this week will be an indicator of how well Google can adapt its Search product to meet the demands of the generative AI era." 

"To maintain its competitive edge and satisfy investors, Google will need to focus on translating its AI innovations into profitable products and services at scale."

(With input from agencies)

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