/ 12 May 2023

AI changes the game at Google


If you googled ‘Google’ yesterday, you would have seen that the tech company unveiled some big updates… It officially launched the artificial intelligence (AI) chatbot Bard in Oz and more than 175 other countries. That means Aussies can now use Bard – previously only available in the US/UK – to find information, write code and translate languages. And perhaps even more noteworthy – Google’s parent company, Alphabet, says it plans to overhaul the way the world’s most popular search engine works. The company said it’s about to start rolling out something called a ‘Search Generative Experience’. Sounds techy, but it essentially means that Google will use AI to provide conversational answers to whatever users search online for…

Don’t worry; we did it for you. Reports say the key difference users will notice is that when they google something – for example, a question about cooking a particular dish – Google will provide an AI-generated response to the search query in the form of bullet points, followed by the list of website links we’re all used to. There’s a good example of what it might look like here. Google’s boss of Search is Elizabeth Reid – she says the new function will “unlock entirely new types of questions you never thought Search could answer and transform the way information is organised, to help you sort through and make sense of what’s out there”. The announcement comes as the company races against rival search engine Bing and its owner Microsoft’s work with ChatGPT, which has already seen massive take-up around the world. “We are reimagining all of our core products, including search,” Alphabet boss Sundar Pichai said.

There’s no set date, but it could be a while. The new function is still in its “experimental” phase and will go through a process similar to how Google rolled out Bard – although the execs will be hoping it goes a little more smoothly this time around… Reports say a limited number of US users will trial it in the coming weeks before it’s rolled out more broadly. After the announcement, Alphabet stock was up 5%, and US financial expert Michael Ashley Schulman said: “The company is showing a willingness and ability to reinvent and disrupt itself, which I feel will be favourably received by investors”. Analyst Chirag Dekate was a bit more hesitant after Bard’s early problems with accuracy: “Google has the tools to dominate the AI battles; the perennial question is – will they?”

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