Google’s response to Microsoft’s GPT-4-enhanced Bing became a little clearer.
What’s new: Anonymous insiders leaked details of Project Magi, the search giant’s near-term effort to enhance its search engine with automated conversation, The New York Times reported. They described upcoming features, but not the models behind them.
How it works: Nearly 160 engineers are working on the project.
- The updated search engine will serve ads along with conversational responses, which include generating computer code. For example, if a user searches for shoes, the search engine will deliver ads as well as organic links. If a user asks for a Python program, it will generate code followed by an ad.
- Searchalong, a chatbot for Google’s Chrome browser, will respond to queries by searching the web.
- Employees are testing the features internally ahead of a limited public release next month. They’ll be available to one million U.S. users initially and reach 30 million by the end of the year.
- Longer-term plans, which are not considered part of Project Magi, include a new search engine powered by the Bard chatbot.
Beyond search: The company is developing AI-powered features for other parts of its business as well. These include an image generation tool called GIFI for Google Images and a chatbot called Tivoli Tutor for learning languages.
Behind the news: Google has been scrambling to integrate AI features. The company recently combined Brain and DeepMind into a single unit to accelerate AI research and development. In March, rumors emerged that Samsung, which pays Google substantial licensing revenue to use its search engine in mobile devices, was considering a switch to Bing. The previous month, Bard made factual errors during a public demo, which contributed to an 8 percent drop in Google’s share price. These moves followed a December 2022 “code red” response to Microsoft’s plans to upgrade Bing with conversational technology from OpenAI.
Why it matters: When it comes to finding information, conversational AI is a powerful addition to, and possibly a replacement for, web search. Google, as the market leader, can’t wait to find out. The ideas Google and its competitors implement in coming months will set the mold for conversational user interfaces in search and beyond.
We’re thinking: Should chatbots be integrated with search or designed as separate products? Microsoft and Google are taking different approaches. Microsoft’s conversational model is deeply integrated with Bing search, while Google's Bard currently stands alone. Given the differences between chat and search, there’s a case to be made for keeping chatbots distinct from search engines.