The tech giant may also move its DeepMind and Google Brain divisions closer together to increase their processing power.
Google plans to add a natural language artificial intelligence chatbot to its search engine to keep up with rivals such as ChatGPT, Google and Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai said on Thursday in an interview with The Wall Street Journal.
Pichai: “We were iterating to ship something”
Pichai told The WSJ he is optimistic about Google’s ability to hold its own in the frenzied AI field; however, he didn’t specify when Google search users might be able to see a difference.
“We were iterating to ship something, and maybe timelines changed, given the moment in the industry,” Pichai said in the interview.
That “moment in the industry” is likely a reference to Microsoft’s Bing announcement and the interest in conversational AI among investors and the public. Microsoft pulled ahead in the AI race in February with the news that it would incorporate ChatGPT and GPT-4 into its Bing search and Edge browser. This reportedly kicked off a “code red” at Google, which has its own AI divisions and products but has not integrated those divisions’ findings into its household name search engine.
Judging by its AI competitors, Google’s possible upcoming search chatbot would likely open with a waitlist.
SEE: Artificial Intelligence Ethics Policy (TechRepublic Premium)
Google has several new search products in the workshop, Pichai said. Some of these products and functionalities might enhance the way the search engine currently works, such as a version that “remembers” search queries in the same session in order to let users ask follow-up questions.
“Will people be able to ask questions to Google and engage with LLMs [large language models] in the context of search? Absolutely,” Pichai told The Wall Street Journal.
“It has been incredible to see user excitement around adoption of these technologies, and some of that is a pleasant surprise as well,” he said.
But putting a natural language AI into the iconic search engine could be a double-edged sword if it moves people further away from search ads, which make up $162 billion of Google’s revenue.
Google can build on Bard
Google has its own in-house chatbot, Bard, and extensive experience in the field of LLMs. Bard is open to the public — with a waitlist — and features a button that redirects to Google Search for more information. Like other AI of its ilk, Bard can recognize and interpret language, code or images and generate more content based on prompts. Google is likely to build on its experience with Bard to add natural language chat into its search engine.
SEE: Want to help build Bard? Users who get through the waitlist can leave feedback.
The tech giant has also used one of its large language models to create Pathways Language Model, a large-scale AI system that is currently available for developers on Google’s cloud computing service.
These large language models, which are the backbone of AI that can hold a natural-sounding conversation with a person, take up massive amounts of processing power. In order to cut down on costs and use processing resources more effectively, Pichai expects that Google’s two AI-focused units, Google Brain and DeepMind, will work more closely together and pool their resources in the near future.
AI competition heats up despite layoffs
One challenge for Google while trying to keep up with Microsoft’s AI developments is employee headcount. Alphabet has reduced its headcount by about 6% since layoffs were first announced in January 2023. Microsoft has also made headline-grabbing layoffs in this year of belt-tightening, notably from an AI ethics team.