Generative AI might be the next major platform shift and Big tech has no intention to stay behind. Building foundational models in generative AI because it requires a lot of engineers, vast cloud resources and huge amounts of data, all the capabilities that big tech posses. As Andrew Ng pointed out in his TED talk:
Until now, Microsoft was clearly in the lead via its close affiliation with OpenAI and their effort to integrate generative AI in its suite of products at a rapid pace. A month ago, Google botched the announcement of BARD (Google’s chatbot that was meant to compete with ChatGPT but shamefully gave the wrong answer, albeit convincingly). Since then, Google’s been under a lot of pressure on to deliver an answer to ChatGPT. The timing is no coincidence, as Microsoft is rumoured to launch GPT-4 this week, which would have further cemented the perception that Google is behind.
Today, Google announced a number of new Generative AI features that will be incorporated in various products for consumers and developers. The sheer number of initiatives that were clubbed together shows that Google felt like their next move needed to be significant.
In a recent Bloomberg interview, Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai said that AI can be a double edge sword and urged for caution when putting AI tools in the hands of consumers.
So it’s no surprise that today’s announcements place a focus on safety and “responsibly” (read: slowly, and not everyone will have access at once). In true Google fashion there’s not a clear date on when exactly all the products will be released and most of them will be initially available in ‘beta’ for a smaller number of users.
We’re now at a pivotal moment in our AI journey. Breakthroughs in generative AI are fundamentally changing how people interact with technology — and at Google, we’ve been responsibly developing large language models so we can safely bring them to our products. Today, we’re excited to share our early progress. Developers and businesses can now try new APIs and products that make it easy, safe and scalable to start building with Google’s best AI models through Google Cloud and a new prototyping environment called MakerSuite. And in Google Workspace, we’re introducing new features that help people harness the power of generative AI to create, connect and collaborate.
Thomas Kurian, Google Cloud CEO (source)
What generative AI features Google announced today
- Generative AI in Gmail, Google Docs & workspace – the Google workspace suite is used by 3 billion people. ChatGPT in comparison, is getting about 25 million monthly uniques. The move to include auto-writing features in Gmail and Google Docs could help Google acquire mindshare with the consumer. It also directly competes with companies like Lex.
- PaLM API & MakerSuite – “offering developers the ability to build on the “a new developer offering that makes it easy and safe to experiment with Google’s large language models. Alongside the API, we’re releasing MakerSuite, a tool that lets developers start prototyping quickly and easily”. This feature will be available only to select developers through a ‘Private Preview’.
- Generative AI support in Vertex AI (developer) – “We are now providing foundation models, initially for generating text and images, and over time with audio and video“. This is potentially exciting.
- Generative AI App Builder (developer) – “connects conversational AI flows with out of the box search experiences and foundation models — helping companies build generative AI applications in minutes or hours”.
– Partnerships, programs, and resources for each segment of the ecosystem. Once again, Google is trying to differentiate from OpenAI’s closed-garden by creating an ‘open ecosystem’, offering companies building foundation models in generative AI access to their best cloud resources (and presumably credits). The first partnerships have been announced: AI21Labs, Midjourney, and Osmo.
Overall, this is a pretty significant move by Google. This comes the same day that Meta announced the layoffs of 10,000 people in what Zuck calls the ‘year of efficiency’ – an effort to flatten the organisation, focus on the tech and prioritising AI (seemingly over their metaverse plans). I’d expect to hear a similarly packed list of generative AI features for developers and consumers in Whatsapp, Instagram, Facebook and Oculus.
Finally, it’s important to consider that these sort of announcements bear a certain level of risk. As google learned the hard way, Generative AI still suffers from “Authoritative Bull” – the chatbot’s ability to spew complete nonsense in a very articulate way as the 60 Minutes report showed: