SAN FRANCISCO — There was a time when Google offered a wonderful vision of the future, complete with driverless cars, augmented reality glasses, unlimited email and photo storage, and predictive text to complete running sentences.
A more modest Google was on display Wednesday as the company kicked off its annual developer conference. The Google of 2022 is more pragmatic and sensible – more like its business-focused rivals at Microsoft than a fantasy playground for tech enthusiasts.
And that, to all appearances, is by design. The bold vision is still there – but it’s a long way off. The professional executives who now run Google are increasingly focused on extracting money from those years of spending on research and development.
The company’s biggest bet in artificial intelligence doesn’t, at least for now, mean sci-fi comes to life. This means more subtle changes to existing products.
“AI improves our products, makes them more useful, more accessible, and provides innovative new features for everyone,” Google CEO Sundar Pichai said Wednesday.
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In a short presentation of amazing moments, Google pointed out that its products are “useful”. In fact, Google executives used the words “help,” “help,” or “useful” more than 50 times during two hours of keynote speeches, including a marketing campaign for its new hardware products with the phrase: “When it comes to helping, we can’t help but help.
It showed off a cheaper version of its Pixel smartphone, a smartwatch with a round display and a new tablet coming next year. (“The most useful tablet in the world.”)
The biggest applause came from a new feature in Google Docs in which the company’s artificial intelligence algorithms automatically summarize a long document into a single paragraph.
At the same time, it wasn’t immediately clear how some of the other groundbreaking work, like language models that better understand natural conversation or can break down a task into smaller logical steps, will ultimately lead to the next generation of computing that Google has touted.
Some of the new ideas certainly seem useful. In a demonstration of how Google continues to improve its search technology, the company showed off a feature called “multi-search,” where a user can take a picture of a shelf full of chocolates and then find the chocolate bar. top rated black with no picture nuts.
In another example, Google showed how you can find an image of a specific dish, like Korean stir-fried noodles, and then search for nearby restaurants serving that dish.
Much of these capabilities are powered by the extensive technological work that Google has done for years using what is called machine learning, image recognition and natural language understanding. It’s a sign of evolution rather than revolution for Google and the other big tech giants.
Many companies can build digital services easier and faster than before through shared technologies such as cloud computing and storage, but building the underlying infrastructure – such as artificial intelligence language models – is so expensive and time-consuming that only the wealthiest companies can invest in them.
As is often the case at Google events, the company didn’t spend a bit of time explaining how it makes money. Google tackled the topic of advertising – which still accounts for 80% of the company’s revenue – after an hour of other ads, highlighting a new feature called My Ad Center. This will allow users to request fewer ads from certain brands or highlight topics on which they would like to see more ads.