Report: Google is racing to build a new, AI-powered search engine to stave off ChatGPT

Report: Google is racing to build a new, AI-powered search engine to stave off ChatGPT

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Google LLC is scrambling to launch new, artificial intelligence-powered features and capabilities in its search engine at a time when its main bread and butter business is facing its most serious threat in years.

The company is said to be working on an all-new, AI-powered search engine, and also looking at updating its existing search technology with AI features. The updates are said to be Google’s response to a suggestion by Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. that it might drop Google Search and make Microsoft Bing the default search tool on its mobile devices, the New York Times reported.

The Times said the potential loss of Samsung could cost Google more than $3 billion in revenue per year. As a result, the suggestion caused widespread “panic” inside Google, forcing the company to race to keep up with the explosion of interest in technologies such as ChatGPT.

According to internal emails obtained by the Times, Google’s response is to update its search engine as part of a project called “Magi”. It’s said that Google has around 160 employees working in “sprint rooms” to add new, AI-powered features to Google Search.

Google has reportedly been in a frenzy since last December, when executives first realized the significance of OpenAI LP’s ChatGPT and how it could pose a challenge in search. The threat to Google’s decades-long dominance of the search industry only increased in February, when Microsoft Corp. announced plans to integrate ChatGPT with Bing. Google Chief Executive Sundar Pichai has responded by promising to add new AI chat features to Google Search soon.

Some of the new features Google is working on include a new service that will attempt to anticipate what users are looking for, before they search, as part of a “more personalized” experience. The Times said Google’s project has no clear timetable, so it’s not clear when the features might be launched.

Other new additions in the pipeline are said to be in various stages of development and include a Chrome feature called “Searchalong” that would scan the web page the user is reading to offer contextual information. So if the user is looking for a place to stay on Airbnb, they could ask about things to see and do near that location. The company is also working on a chatbot that will be able to answer software engineering questions and generate snippets of code. A second chatbot would help people search for music. There are more experimental features in the pipeline too, such as “GIFI” and “Tivoli Tutor”, which would make it possible to prompt Google Image Search to generate images and converse with a chatbot in a new language.

It’s notable that many of these features aren’t entirely original, though. For instance, image generation is already a feature in Slides, while Tivoli Tutor sounds a lot like Duolingo Inc.’s learning app.

The Times said Google is planning to announce Magi next month before following up with additional new features in fall. Such a timeline suggests we could learn more about Magi at Google’s I/O 2023 event. Google is reportedly planning to offer Magi’s features to an initial testbed of one million people, before expanding availability to 30 million users by the end of the year. Magi will be made available exclusively in the U.S. first of all.

In a statement, Google refused to address the claims made by the Times directly, but said it has already been integrating AI capabilities within Google Search for years, with features such as Lens and multisearch, for example.

“We’ve done so in a responsible and helpful way that maintains the high bar we set for delivering quality information,” a Google spokesperson said. “Not every brainstorm deck or product idea leads to a launch, but as we’ve said before, we’re excited about bringing new AI-powered features to Search, and will share more details soon.”

Photo by Sarah Blocksidge

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