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Google Adds AI Inside and Out: Generative AI highlights from Google I/O 2023

Google showcased a flood of new features in its latest bid to get ahead in the generative AI arms race.

What’s new: The company demonstrated AI features for consumers and developers at its annual I/O conference.

PaLM powered: More than two dozen of the new features, including Bard and Duet AI (see below), are powered by a new large language model called PaLM 2. Google trained PaLM 2 on tasks similar to Google's UL2 pretraining framework more than 100 different natural languages and numerous programming languages. It will be available as a cloud service in four unspecified sizes.

  • Google showcased two fine-tuned versions of PaLM 2: Med-PaLM 2, fine-tuned to answer medical questions; and SecPaLM, fine-tuned to recognize malware and analyze network security vulnerabilities.
  • Developers can access PaLM 2 via Google's cloud development platform Vertex, or join a waitlist for the API.
  • CEO Sundar Pichai said PaLM 2’s successor will be a multimodal model called Gemini.

App assistance: Duet AI is a suite of text generation tools for Google Workspace and Cloud.

  • Consumer-facing features include a tool that generates messages for Gmail, a custom image generator for Slides, and automated cell-labeling for Sheets. Access is limited to a waitlist.
  • Duet AI power development tools on Google Cloud including code completion, live debugging, and a chatbot that provides code-writing advice for Go, Java, JavaScript, Python, and SQL. Access is available via waitlist.

New foundation models: Vertex offers three new foundation models. Chirp for speech-to-text, Codey for code completion, and Imagen for text-to-image generation. Users can join a waitlist via Vertex.

Bard handles images: Users no longer have to join a waitlist for access to the Bard chatbot, and its language capabilities have been expanded from English to include Japanese and Korean. It is now available in 180 countries, though not the EU or Canada. Bard can now respond to image-based queries, provide images in its responses, and generate custom images using Adobe’s image generation model, Firefly.

Search enhancements: An experimental version of Google Search will generate text answers to queries using an unidentified language model.

  • Users who click suggested follow-up questions will enter a chat dialogue with Bard.
  • Google Search will generate snippets of code or programming advice in response to software development queries.
  • Eligible users can opt in through their Google account.

Why it matters: Google’s new capabilities are the latest salvo in an ongoing competition to capture generative AI’s market potential to greatest effect.

We’re thinking: Just days ago, a leaked Google memo talked about Google and OpenAI’s lack of moat when it comes to LLM technology. It described how open source offerings of LLMs are racing ahead, making it challenging for any company to maintain a significant and enduring lead over competitors in the quality of its models. We think the impressive I/O presentation by Sundar Pichai and team, however, reminded everyone of Google’s tremendous distribution advantages. Google owns many platforms/products (such as search, Gmail, Android, Chrome and Youtube) with over 2 billion users, and this gives it numerous ways to get generative AI to users. In the era of generative AI, we are increasingly seeing distribution as a moat for businesses.


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