The Google Assistant is a fabulous innovation. It’s to blame for so much of what we love about the Search giant’s ecosystem. Although the assistant is artificial intelligence/machine learning at its core, the Google Assistant was missing from much of the chatter around the company’s Bard conversational AI tool. While we assumed it was part of the same family, with the bot a Google Assistant just supercharged with the freedom to get things wrong, we didn’t exactly realise the teams were operating independent.
But, a report from Axios details that Bard will be the new base for the Google Assistant. That instead of the assistant we all know, we’ll have one that Axios tells us will be overhauled to focus on using generative AI technologies. Le sigh.
Axios’ insight came from an internal email circulated at Google HQ. It notes that the mobile Google Assistant experience will be the first one to adopt the shift.
It’s understood the move will change how Assistant works for everyone – developers too, not just us consumers. But also staff. The email apparently noted that Google will be making a “small number” of layoffs in conjunction with the shift – with dozens of the team made up of reportedly thousands who work on the Assistant at present.
Axios embedded the email telling staff about the Bard-shaped changes to the Google Assistant team. Here’s a chunk of what it said:
“As a team, we need to focus on delivering high-quality, critical product experiences for our users. We’ve also seen the profound potential of generative AI to transform people’s lives and see a huge opportunity to explore what a supercharged Assistant, powered by the latest LLM technology, would look like. (A portion of the team has already started working on this, beginning with mobile.)”
It does make sense, as I said, Google Assistant is already an AI play, why not merge it with Bard’s smarts to make one super Assistant. But generative AI systems like Open AI’s ChatGPT aren’t the best at being accurate – something we have relied on up until now has been the accuracy of the Google Assistant. The Assistant won’t necessarily be packed with Bard, though, the news is simply that the teams are becoming a bit more streamlined and Google sees the two offerings as not so separate anymore. Collaboration is great, we’re just still too sceptical of unleashing unvalidated AI onto the world too soon.
“We remain deeply committed to Assistant and we are optimistic about its bright future ahead,” the internal memo ends with.
Let’s hope this is true, Google Assistant is too brilliant to be ruined by a chatbot such as Bard.
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