Google unveils new devices while focusing on AI

As I entered Shoreline Amphitheater on Wednesday, I thought I was attending Google IO – the company’s annual developers conference. But after listening to CEO Sundar Pichai and several other Google executives speak about new products and services, the event felt like it should be renamed Google AI.

Indeed, the first 75 minutes of the two-hour event was focused on how artificial intelligence and specifically generative AI (GAI), is not only the main ingredient of Google Bard, the company’s new conversational, AI chat service, but soon integrated into all its services including search, photos, maps and Google docs.  But even the device part of the event focused largely on AI, which is central to the new hardware products they unveiled at the event. Google announced a $499 Pixel 7A phone, a Pixel Tablet starting at $499 and the $1,799 Pixel Fold, the company’s first foldable smart phone.

Good position to compete

While it’s hard to predict how any company or product will do when it comes to a new paradigm shift like GAI, Google is in a good position to compete because it’s already the No. 1 search engine, and as Google executives emphasized during the event, search is a great starting point for AI queries. Google is in the process of retooling search to not only give links but to enhance them with short articles, called AI Snapshots, that it creates on the fly to answer user questions, including questions users pose in conversational language. In a presentation, Google Vice President of Engineering Cathy Edwards demonstrated how a parent could ask Google to recommend a national park for a vacation with kids and a dog and get written answer in addition to search results and planning resources for the vacation.

Google also announced that Bard is now available for anyone to try at, without having to join a waiting list.

Maps and photos

Google Maps is getting AI-generated routing such as generating a video preview of a bike ride before you hop on the bike. Google is also adding AI photo editing to Google photos, making it very easy to move objects or people within a picture or turn a cloudy day into a sunny one. Google is already offering its Magic Eraser tool on Pixel phones that enables you to easily remove objects from a picture without affecting what’s behind them. This AI photo editing is great, but it will make it a lot easier to create “deep fakes” by doctoring pictures. Google also showed off ways that you can use AI to describe what you want to see in a picture and have it generated automatically as a drawing or as what looks like a photograph. I wonder if it could create a picture of me shaking hands with Albert Einstein or George Washington but fear that it could be used to create a fake photo that could defame someone.

Thinking about what could go wrong

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