First, digital assistants like Siri, Alexa and Google Assistant were talking. Then there were online chatbots like ChatGPT and Google Bard. Now, the two are merging.
On Thursday, Google unveiled Gemini, a smartphone app that acts like a talking digital assistant, as well as a conversational chatbot. Responding to voice and text requests, it can answer questions, write poetry, create images, design emails, analyze personal photos, and do other things like set a timer or make a phone call.
Immediately available to English speakers in more than 150 countries and territories, including the United States, Gemini replaces Bard and Google Assistant. It is supported by the artificial intelligence technology that the company has been developing since the beginning of last year.
The new app is designed to perform a range of tasks, including serving as a personal tutor, helping computer programmers with coding tasks and even preparing job hunters for interviews, Google said.
“It can help you role-play different scenarios,” said Sissie Hsiao. a Google vice president in charge of the company’s Google Assistant unit during a briefing with reporters.
When ChatGPT arrived from OpenAI in late 2022, impressing the public with the way it answered questions, wrote terms and generated computer code, Google found itself playing catch-up. Like other tech giants, the company had spent years developing similar technology, but hadn’t released a product as advanced as ChatGPT.
(The New York Times sued OpenAI and its partner Microsoft in December, alleging copyright infringement in news content related to AI systems.)
Google launched its own chatbot, Bard, in March to mediocre reviews. In the weeks that followed, the company merged its two leading AI labs — Google Brain and DeepMind — and announced that the combined lab developed new AI technology called Gemini.
Gemini is what researchers call a large language model, or LLM, a mathematical system that can learn skills by analyzing vast amounts of data, including books, computer programs and online chat. By spotting patterns throughout this text, an LLM can learn to generate text on its own. This means he can write poetry, generate computer code and even carry on a conversation.
It is also prone to errors. He may get facts wrong or “hallucinate” — make things up.
Gemini is a “multimodal” system, meaning it can respond to both images and sounds. After analyzing a math problem that included graphs, figures, and other images, he could answer the question as a high school student would.
In December, Google used a limited version of this technology to upgrade Bard. Now, the company has retired the Bard name and is releasing a more powerful version of the technology through the Gemini app, which is available on Android phones and online. An iPhone version will arrive “in the coming weeks,” Google said.
Google has created a free but limited version of the Gemini app. A more powerful version—called Gemini Advanced and powered by a version of Google’s Ultra language model—is available for a monthly subscription of $19.99. Google offers a two-month free trial.
Google published benchmark test results, claiming that Ultra outperformed OpenAI’s latest technology, GPT-4, in several key areas, including computer code generation and news summarization.
The Gemini app can also create, analyze and respond to images. Users can upload a photo from their Super Bowl party, for example, and ask the app to create a caption.
Google also said it will offer similar technology through its Google Workspace and Google Cloud business services. This will allow customers to use the technology alongside apps like Gmail and Google Docs.
On Android phones, the new app will replace Google Assistant if users download Gemini. Like Google Assistant, it can respond to voice commands, although it also responds to text commands.
Google said it will also continue to offer and improve Google Assistant.
Last year, OpenAI released a similar version of its chatbot ChatGPT that can respond to voice commands. Most industry insiders believe that the AI technology that drives chatbots like ChatGPT will merge with and replace digital assistants like Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa.