That Google I/O show was something special, wasn’t it? It was two hours of non-stop talking about AI without a break. Bard, Palm, Duet, Unicorn, Gecko, Gemini, Tailwind, Otter – there were so many cryptic AI codenames around that it was hard to keep track of what Google was talking about. A glossary would really help. The highlight was, of course, the hardware, but even that was talked about as an AI delivery system.
Google is in the midst of an all-out panic over the rise of OpenAI and its flagship product ChatGPT, which has roiled Wall Street and could potentially steal some of the queries people typically type on Google.com. This is an awkward situation for Google, especially for its CEO Sundar Pichai, who Mantra “AI First” It’s been about seven years now and he has nothing much to show. Google has been trying to get consumers interested in AI for years, but people only seemed to care about it after someone other than Google took a swing at it.
Even more embarrassing, ChatGPT’s growth has been powered by Google technology. The “T” in “ChatGPT” means “transducer”, a neural network method. Google invented in 2017 and never commercialized. OpenAI has taken Google’s public research, created a product based on it, and is now using that product to threaten Google.
A few months before the I/O, Pichai issued a “Code Red” warning across the company, stating that ChatGPT is something Google needs to fight and even pulled its co-founders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, out of retirement to help out. A few years ago, Google panicked about Facebook and required all employees to create social features in existing Google apps. And while it was a widely hated initiative that ultimately failed, Google is dusting off this Google+ tutorial to fight OpenAI. All employees are now reportedly required to embed some sort of AI feature into every Google product.
“Mandatory AI” is certainly what Google I/O felt. In each section of the presentation, a division of Google presented a book report on the New AI Thing that they had been working on for the past six months. Google I/O was more like a presentation to Google managers than a show meant to excite developers and consumers. The AI directive led to ridiculous situations, such as when the head of Android development came on stage to talk only about the AI-powered emoji wallpaper generator, not about any significant OS improvements.
Wall Street investors seemed to be one group excited about the Google I/O stock. jumped 4 percent after the show. Maybe that was the point of it all.
An AI show without mentioning Google Assistant?
Would you believe that Google Assistant got zero mentions on Google I/O? This show was all about AI, and Google didn’t mention its biggest AI product yet. Pichai Seminary AI First Blog Post since 2016 O Google Assistant and has an image of Pichai in front of the Google Assistant logo. Google highlighted past AI projects such as Gmail’s Smart Reply and Smart Compose, Google Photos’ magic eraser and AI-powered search, Deepmind’s AlphaGo and Google Lens, but Google Assistant couldn’t process a single mention. It seemed completely on purpose.
Heck, Google has unveiled a product that’s a continuation of the Nest Hub Google Assistant’s smart display — the Pixel Tablet — and Google Assistant. quiet couldn’t get a mention. At one pointthe host even said that the Pixel Tablet has a “voice assistant”.
The avoidance of Google Assistant for I/O seemed like a further de-prioritization of what used to be its AI staple. The last major product launch with Assistant speaker/display was two years ago in March 2021. Google has since shipped hardware where Assistant support has been dropped from Nest Wi-Fi and Fitbitand this disabled helper commands on Weiss. The company lost a patent case to Sonos and removed key speaker features such as volume control from its broadcast function. Driving mode assistant malfunction in 2022, and one of the Assistant’s most important features, reminders, is being closed in favor of Google Task Reminders.
It looks like the Pixel Tablet was supposed to be the new Google Assistant device as it looks exactly like all other Google Assistant devices, but Google shipped it without a dedicated smart display interface. This appears to have been conceived when the Assistant was a viable product at Google, and then shipped as leftover hardware when the Assistant fell out of favor.
The Google Assistant team has reportedly been asked to stop working on their own product and focus on improving Bard. The assistant never really made any money in his seven years; all hardware is sold at cost, voice recognition servers are expensive to run, and the assistant has no viable after-sales revenue streams such as advertising. Oddly enough, it seems that the power of these voice recognition servers is being turned off, as recently it takes a few seconds to process assistant commands.