Google shows the AI evolution of its search engine: What to know

Google is rolling out more artificial intelligence for its core search product as it responds to Microsoft challenge.

Google has unveiled plans to infuse its dominant search engine with more advanced artificial intelligence technology.

The move comes three months after Microsoft’s Bing search engine started to tap into tech similar to that which powers the artificially intelligent chatbot ChatGPT.

Here is what to know about the move:

What are the new updates to Google search?

  • On Wednesday, at its annual I/O conference in Mountain View, California, Google demonstrated an updated core search product that embeds more AI in its answers.
  • Under the enhanced function termed the Search Generative Experience (SGE), Google’s homepage still looks and acts like its familiar search bar. The difference is in the answers. If the new function detects that artificial intelligence can be used to answer a query, the top of the results page will show the AI-generated response. The traditional links to the internet will remain below.
  • For example, a search for “weather San Francisco” will as usual point a user to an eight-day forecast, while a query asking what outfit to wear in the Californian city prompts a lengthy response generated by AI. “You should bring layers, including a short-sleeved shirt and a light sweater or jacket for the day,” the result stated, including links to websites where it gleaned such advice.
  • According to an analysis by The Washington Post, this new technology reduces the steps to get these answers. Currently, these questions might require multiple searches or visiting different pages. Google AI can summarise information and facts from different websites and make search an easier experience.

‘Conversational mode’

  • Users will also be able to enter a brand new “conversational mode” that remembers the user’s prior questions so they can ask follow-ups more easily. “Context will be carried over from question to question to help you more naturally continue your exploration. You’ll also find helpful jumping-off points to web content and a range of perspectives that you can dig into,” Google said.
  • But the company said this conversational mode is not designed to be a chatbot with a personality; it is intended only to help hone search results.
  • This new release is different from Bard, another AI writing product that Google introduced in March, and it is also different from Google answer bots that talk on smart speakers.

What other technology is coming up?

  • More AI technology will be coming to Google’s Gmail with a “Help Me Write” option that will produce lengthy replies to emails in seconds, and a tool for photos called “Magic Editor” that will automatically doctor images.

Is the new Google search available now?

  • Not yet. US consumers will gain access to the Search Generative Experience in the coming weeks via a wait list, a trial phase during which Google will monitor the quality, speed and cost of search results, the company said.
Google CEO Sundar Pichai speaks during the Google I/O keynote session at Shoreline Amphitheatre in Mountain View, California
More AI technology will be coming to Google’s Gmail with a ‘Help Me Write’ option [File: Josh Edelson/AFP]

What other new things were announced?

  • Google released a new foldable Pixel smartphone that lets consumers use the company’s AI. The company also unveiled a $499 phone, the Pixel 7A.
  • Bard – a chatbot with a persona that can hold human-like conversations and is intended for creative collaboration – will be accessible to people in more than 180 countries and territories.
  • Bard will also be available for Gmail, Sheets and Docs, allowing people to ask questions and interact with the chatbot while using the apps.
  • Behind Bard also is a more powerful AI model Google announced called PaLM 2, which it said could solve tougher problems. One of its PaLM 2 models is lightweight enough to work on smartphones.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies