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In major change, Google to use AI-generated answers in search results
Mountain View, United States, May 14 (AFP) May 14, 2024
Google on Tuesday said it would introduce AI-generated answers to online queries, in one of the biggest changes to its world leading search engine in 25 years.

"I'm excited to announce that we will begin launching this fully revamped experience, 'AI overviews,' to everyone in the US this week," Google chief executive Sundar Pichai said at an event in California.

The change will soon spread to other countries, he added, making it accessible to more than a billion people.

Google's search results will feature an AI summary at the top of the page before the more typical unfurling of links.

The AI blurbs generated by Google's Gemini technology will offer succinct summaries of what it found on the internet with links to the online sources that supplied the information.

"You can ask whatever's on your mind or whatever you need to get done - from researching to planning to brainstorming - and Google will take care of the legwork," said Google Search team boss Liz Reid.

The change comes as Google feels growing pressure from AI-powered search engines like Perplexity, and from the repeated rumors that OpenAI, the creator of ChatGPT, is building its own AI search tool.

Searches through AI chats have also appeared on Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp, with users able to get information from the web without Google.

These alternatives are praised by some for their cleaner experience than the often cluttered results of a classic query.

Creators and small publishers are nervous about the change, fearing users will no longer click through to websites to find information.

Research firm Gartner predicts traffic to the web from search engines will fall 25 percent by 2026 because of AI bot use.

Google pushed back at the suggestion that ChatGPT-style AI interactions could impact its business, which depends almost exclusively on advertising sales from its search engine.

"We've found that with AI Overviews, people use Search more, and are more satisfied with their results," Reid said.

"You can ask your most complex questions, with all the nuances and caveats you have in mind, all in one go."

The company said such generative AI tools are making life easier for users, whether they're looking for a yoga studio open on Sundays, planning a trip or preparing a meal with special dietary requirements.

The company will also soon start testing applying AI to searches based on video content as the query source, according to Reid.

As an example, this would allow users to ask Google to diagnose a broken appliance by filming it with a smartphone and get tips for getting it fixed.


- 'Project Astra' -


Google also provided a look at Project Astra, which is devoted to building digital assistants to aid with tasks big or small.

"For a long time we wanted to build a universal AI agent that can be truly helpful in everyday life," said Google DeepMind chief Demis Hassabis.

"It's easy to envisage a future where you can have an expert assistant by your side through your phone or new exciting form factors like glasses."

AI agent capabilities will debut in Google products such as the Gemini app or Assistant later this year, according to Hassabis.

Google is in a fierce AI race with rivals including OpenAI, which released a GPT-4o version of its flagship software on Monday.

GPT-4o can generate content or understand commands in voice, text, or images.

OpenAI's update to its technology proved to be extremely conversational -- able to crack jokes, write songs and help tutor a student in algebra.

Google, like OpenAI, also showed demos of staff members asking its AI to recognize the surroundings via a smartphone camera and demonstrate other assistant-like skills.

These new abilities are designed to be "conversational, intuitive and helpful," according to Gemini Experiences and Google Assistant general manager Sissie Hsiao.

Making digital assistants like savvy sidekicks is seen as the next battleground for generative AI, with Apple close to an agreement with OpenAI to use the powers of ChatGPT on the iPhone, according to US media reports.

That deal could be part of the major AI announcements expected from the iPhone maker at an event in California next month, with all eyes on a potential update to Siri, Apple's digital assistant.


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