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Google’s search dominance could eclipse Microsoft’s head start on AI

The news: Google livestreamed an event from Paris on Wednesday, showcasing how it’s using AI to transform its Search and Maps platforms for more “natural” and “intuitive” experiences.

  • The event kicked off with promotion of the tech giant’s AI chatbot Bard, which is in private beta testing. An anticipated public release for use in Search is expected within weeks.
  • Based on Google’s LaMDA AI model, Bard will initially be released as a scaled back version to save on compute costs while the company gathers feedback.
  • The event coincided with a similar one by Microsoft as it released an initial version of its ChatGPT-powered Bing this week.

Search reinvention: Google’s Paris event seemed choreographed to send the message that the company has a lot of AI innovation going on beyond merely trying to catch up with Microsoft.

Here are the notable updates:

Multisearch: A new Search feature uses Google Lens to allow smartphone users to search using text and images simultaneously.

  • It’s powered by Multitask Unified Model (MUM), a generative AI system that can synthesize data from a combination of text, photos, and videos.
  • A “Multisearch near me” upgrade will launch globally in a few months, expanding the tool for local business searches.

Immersive View: Google launched a new Maps feature.

  • Initially, it will serve London, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, and Tokyo, with plans to add more cities in the coming months.
  • It combines Street View with billions of images to offer a digital model of the world.
  • Users can soar over cities and zoom in to find a building’s entrance and current conditions in the area.

Other updates:

  • Google’s Live View, which transforms users’ smartphones into an augmented reality (AR) tool to tour cities via Maps, is expanding to cover more cities, airports, train stations, and shopping districts.
  • The tech giant is also adding new features to help EV drivers find charging stations and plan their routes based on battery charge level.

Tech giants neck and neck: Google and Microsoft are both under pressure to hit bullseye on generative AI.

  • Google appears to be catching up with Microsoft’s early lead on deploying the technology but with the added advantage of its pre-existing search market dominance.
  • We can expect both Bing and Google Search to see higher levels of traffic as users compare the tech novelties.
  • Many of Google’s Maps and Search upgrades are geared toward smartphone users, so market reception could be limited by battery life limitations.
  • Longer-term outcomes for the technologies will be dictated by how the companies balance compute costs with revenue, ethical deployment, accuracy of results, and ease of use.