SAN FRANCISCO — At a time when Google offered a wondrous vision of the future, driverless cars, augmented-reality eyewear, unlimited storage of emails and photos, and predictive text for completing sentences in progress.
A more modest Google was on display on Wednesday as the company kicked off its annual developer conference. The Google of 2022 is more practical and sensible – a bit more like its business-focused competitors at Microsoft than a fantasy playing land for tech enthusiasts.
And that, by all appearances, is by design. Bold Vision is still out there – but it’s a way off. The professional executives who now run Google are focused on extracting money from those years spent on research and development.
The company’s biggest bet in artificial intelligence, at least for now, doesn’t mean science fiction comes to life. This means more subtle changes to existing products.
“AI is improving our products, making them more helpful, more accessible, and innovative new features for all,” Google Chief Executive Officer Sundar Pichai said on Wednesday.
Read more on Artificial Intelligence
In a presentation at Wow Moments, Google insisted that its products were “supportive.” In fact, Google executives used the words “help,” “help,” or “helper” more than 50 times during the two-hour keynote speeches, including a marketing campaign for their new hardware products along the line. Is: “When it comes to helping, we can’t help but help.”
It introduced a cheaper version of its Pixel smartphone, a smartwatch with a rounded screen, and a new tablet coming next year. (“The most useful tablet in the world.”)
The biggest praise came from a new Google Docs feature in which the company’s artificial-intelligence algorithms automatically summarize a long document into a single paragraph.
At the same time, it was not immediately clear how some other important functions, such as language models that better understand natural interactions or that can break down a task into logically smaller steps, would eventually lead to the next generation of computing. Google has postponed.
Certainly some new ideas seem useful. In a demonstration of how Google continues to improve its search technology, the company showed off a feature called “multisearch,” in which a user can snap a picture of a shelf full of chocolates and then search for the best-reviewed ones without the nuts. Can find dark chocolate bars. Picture.
In another example, Google showed how you can search for a picture of a specific dish, such as Korean Stir-Fried Noodles, and then search for a nearby restaurant serving that dish.
Most of these capabilities are driven by the intense technical work Google has done over the years using so-called machine learning, image recognition, and natural language understanding. This signals an evolution rather than a revolution for Google and other big tech giants.
Shared technologies such as cloud computing and storage make it easier and faster for many companies to build digital services than ever before, but building the underlying infrastructure – such as artificial intelligence language models – is so expensive and time-consuming that only the most Only rich companies can invest in them.
As is often the case at Google events, the company didn’t take a while to explain how it makes money. Google brought up the topic of advertising — which still accounts for 80 percent of the company’s revenue — an hour after other announcements were made, highlighting a new feature called My Ad Center. This will allow users to request fewer ads from certain brands or to highlight topics they want to see more ads about.