Google announces new AI search features, as race with Microsoft heats up
Google (GOOG, GOOGL) on Wednesday announced a slew of new AI-powered features for its Search, Maps, and Lens apps. The announcement comes just a day after rival Microsoft (MSFT) rolled out a new version of its Bing search engine complete with generative AI capabilities, bringing a rare threat to Google’s search supremacy.
Shares of Google parent company Alphabet were down more than 7% on Wednesday as investors expressed skepticism about these new features.
The company’s first feature comes in the form of “search your screen,” which will, well, search the internet for more information about photos and videos on your screen. Google uses the example of a video a friend texts of a chair you might like.
You can call up the Google Assistant on your phone by long-pressing the power button on your Android device. Google’s Lens will pull up information about where you can buy the chair online without leaving your messaging app.
The company has also announced that it’s rolling out its multisearch feature globally. The option allows you to do things like take a picture of a green chair, then type “blue” to find the same chair available in blue for sale online.
You can also search for different shapes of objects. For instance, if you want a table in a different style, you can capture it using Google Lens, and then type "circular" in the text search box to search the web for a circular version of the table.
The company is also adding features to Google Maps, including its new immersive view option, which Google showed off during its I/O event in May 2022. Immersive view tells you how crowded a place typically is, and using an AI technique called neural radiance fields (NeRF), creates 3D representations of locations to help you see what they’re like during a specific time of day.
Say, for instance, you’re visiting the Empire State Building. Immersive view can tell you how busy it is at 10 a.m. on a Friday, and show you what it looks like during a Wednesday night when it’s raining.
The idea is that you’ll be able to see how crowded a popular tourist attraction usually is, where the entrances are, and whether people go there more often during the day or at night.
Not sure what a bar you’ve heard about looks like on a busy Friday night? Immersive view will let you know. So if you’re in a new city and are the kind of person who likes a more relaxed atmosphere, you can see what bars are more empty, rather than stumbling upon a busy bar and walking in before walking right back out.
Then there’s Google Translate, which is also getting some new AI-powered features. The most interesting is the ability to recognize context when translating something to a different language. In one example Google points to how novel can be used in differing contexts.
Depending on how you’re using it, the word could be translated in a number of ways. With Translate's context capabilities, it should be able to decipher whether you mean something you’d read or something original, and translate it appropriately.
Google’s updates come as the company is working to head off Microsoft’s attempt to steal market share away from the search giant via its new Bing search engine. Powered by a more powerful version of OpenAI’s ChatGPT, the new Bing brings generative conversational AI to Bing, ushering in what could be an age of more personalized search for consumers.
It will take time, however, to determine whether Microsoft’s efforts are enough to dethrone Google. And the search giant clearly isn’t willing to become stagnant while Microsoft’s Bing evolves. On Monday, Google announced its own ChatGPT rival called Bard, saying it will come to its search products in the future.
The race is on.
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