SCIENCE + TECHNOLOGY

Google is giving its dominant search engine an artificial-intelligence makeover

May 11, 2023, 4:00 AM | Updated: 7:42 am

Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai speaks at a Google I/O event in Mountain View, Calif., Wednesday, May 10...

Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai speaks at a Google I/O event in Mountain View, Calif., Wednesday, May 10, 2023. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

(AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. (AP) — Google on Wednesday disclosed plans to infuse its dominant search engine with more advanced artificial-intelligence technology, a drive that’s in response to one of the biggest threats to its long-established position as the internet’s main gateway.

The gradual shift in how Google’s search engine runs is rolling out three months after Microsoft’s Bing search engine started to tap into technology similar to that which powers the artificially intelligent chatbot ChatGPT, which has created one of Silicon Valley’s biggest buzzes since Apple released the first iPhone 16 years ago.

Google, which is owned by Alphabet Inc., already has been testing its own conversational chatbot called Bard. That product, powered by technology called generative AI that also fuels ChatGPT, has only been available to people accepted from a waitlist. But Google announced Wednesday that Bard will be available to all comers in more than 180 countries and more languages beyond English.

Bard’s multilingual expansion will begin with Japanese and Korean before adding about 40 more languages.

Now Google is ready to test the AI waters with its search engine, which has been synonymous with finding things on the internet for the past 20 years and serves as the pillar of a digital advertising empire that generated more than $220 billion in revenue last year.

“We are at an exciting inflection point,” Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai told a packed developers conference in a speech peppered with one AI reference after another. “We are reimagining all our products, including search.”

More AI technology will be coming to Google’s Gmail with a “Help Me Write” option that will produce lengthy replies to emails in seconds, and a tool for photos called “Magic Editor” that will automatically doctor pictures.

The AI transition will begin cautiously with the search engine that serves as Google’s crown jewel.

The deliberate approach reflects the balancing act that Google must negotiate as it tries to remain on the cutting edge while also preserving its reputation for delivering reliable search results — a mantle that could be undercut by artificial intelligence’s penchant for fabricating information that sounds authoritative.

The tendency to produce deceptively convincing answers to questions — a phenomenon euphemistically described as “hallucinations” — has already been cropping up during the early testing of Bard, which like ChatGPT, relies on still-evolving generative AI technology.

Google will take its next AI steps through a newly formed search lab where people in the U.S. can join a waitlist to test how generative AI will be incorporated in search results. The tests also include the more traditional links to external websites where users can read more extensive information about queried topics. It may take several weeks before Google starts sending invitations to those accepted from the waitlist to test the AI-injected search engine.

The AI results will be clearly tagged as an experimental form of technology and Google is pledging the AI-generated summaries will sound more factual than conversational — a distinct contrast from Bard and ChatGPT, which are programmed to convey more human-like personas. Google is building in guardrails that will prevent the AI baked into the search engine from responding to sensitive questions about health — such as, “Should I give Tylenol to a 3-year-old?” — and finance matters. In those instances, Google will continue to steer people to authoritative websites.

Google isn’t predicting how long it will be before its search engine will include generative AI results for all comers. The Mountain View, California, company has been under intensifying pressure to demonstrate how its search engine will maintain its leadership since Microsoft began to load AI into Bing, which remains a distant second to Google.

The potential threat caused Alphabet’s stock price to initially plunge, although it has recently bounced back to where it stood when Bing announced its AI plans to great fanfare. More recently, The New York Times reported Samsung is considering dropping Google as the default search engine on its widely used smartphones, raising the specter that Apple might adopt a similar tactic with the iPhone unless Google can show its search engine can evolve with what appears to be a forthcoming AI-driven revolution.

Alphabet’s shares surged 4% Wednesday after Google’s wave of AI announcements to finish at $111.75, the highest closing price since Bing began melding with ChatGPT in early February.

As it begins to ingrain AI in its search engine, Google is aiming to make Bard smarter by connecting with the next generation of a massive data set known as a “large language model,” or LLM, that fuels it. The LLM that Bard relies on is dubbed Pathways Language Model, or PaLM. The AI in Google’s search engine will draw upon the next-generation PaLM2 and another technology known as a Multitask Unified Model, or MUM.

Although people will have to wait to see how Google’s search engine will deploy generative AI to find answers, a new tool soon be more broadly available to all users. Google is going to add a new filter called “Perspectives” that will focus on what people are saying online about whatever topic is entered into the search engine. The new feature will be placed along existing search filters for news, images and video.

Besides using its annual tech showcase to tout its prowess in AI, Google also unveiled the first foldable smartphone in its Pixel line-up of gadgets. Google’s entry into a new type of smartphone design that allows users to deploy the device as a mini-tablet too comes nearly three years after Samsung — the leading maker of smartphones powered by Google’s Android software — introduced its first bendable model.

Foldable phones so far have remained a niche market, largely because of prices ranging between $1,500 and $2,000. Last year, about 14 million foldable phones were sold worldwide, accounting for just 1% of overall smartphone shipments, according to the research firm International Data Corp.

Google’s foldable Pixel phone will sell for $1,800 and begin shipping next month. It will unfold with a hinge and, of course, be packed with AI.

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.

Today’s Top Stories

Science + Technology

AI being used to detect guns...

Allessandra Harris

AI used to detect guns and keep schools safe during shooting situations

From writing essays to generating art, now AI is detecting guns and helping keep schools safe in shooting situations.

2 days ago

Customers of Venmo, PayPal and CashApp should not store their money for the long term with these ap...

KEN SWEET AP Business Writer

Money stored in Venmo, similar apps could be vulnerable says financial watchdog

Money stored on a payment app is not being held in a traditional bank account and may not be protected in the event of a bank run.

2 days ago

Khalil Watson uses an exoskeleton to stand and walk at his college graduation ceremony years after ...

Nicki Brown and Ashley R. Williams, CNN

Weeks before graduating high school, he was shot and paralyzed. 7 years later, he walked across the stage to accept his college degree

Originally Published: 20 MAY 23 14:10 ET Updated: 21 MAY 23 12:41 ET (CNN) — Seven years ago, the chance to walk at graduation was stripped from Khalil Watson, a Virginia man who was paralyzed from the neck down after being shot weeks before finishing high school. But with help from physical therapists and a […]

13 days ago

FILE - The Twitter splash page is seen on a digital device, April 25, 2022, in San Diego. (AP Photo...

Brian Fung, CNN

Supreme Court shields Twitter from liability for terror-related content

The rulings are wins for Twitter that have faced a barrage of lawsuits from critics who allege they should be held legally responsible for societal harms, including terrorist attacks.

16 days ago

AI healthcare could be the next big thing....

Amanda Dickson

Here’s how AI could help Utah healthcare workers

AI healthcare could be the next future movement to help you receive good care and make it easier on healthcare professionals.

16 days ago

learning about fault lines...

Alexandrea Bonilla

Utah Geological Survey learning more on connection between Wasatch and West Valley fault lines

Scientists with the Utah Geological Survey are learning just how connected the Wasatch Fault line is to the West Valley fault line.

18 days ago

Sponsored Articles

close up of rose marvel saliva blooms in purple...

Shannon Cavalero

Drought Tolerant Perennials for Utah

The best drought tolerant plants for Utah can handle high elevations, alkaline soils, excessive exposure to wind, and use of secondary water.

Group of cheerful team members high fiving each other...

Visit Bear Lake

How To Plan a Business Retreat in Bear Lake This Spring

Are you wondering how to plan a business retreat this spring? Read our sample itinerary to plan a team getaway to Bear Lake.

Cheerful young woman writing an assignment while sitting at desk between two classmates during clas...

BYU EMBA at the Marriott School of Business

Hear it Firsthand: 6 Students Share Their Executive MBA Experience at BYU’s Marriott School of Business

The Executive MBA program at BYU offers great opportunities. Hear experiences straight from students enrolled in the program.

Skier being towed by a rider on a horse. Skijoring....

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

Looking for a New Winter Activity? Try Skijoring in Bear Lake

Skijoring is when someone on skis is pulled by a horse, dog, animal, or motor vehicle. The driver leads the skiers through an obstacle course over jumps, hoops, and gates.

Banner with Cervical Cancer Awareness Realistic Ribbon...

Intermountain Health

Five Common Causes of Cervical Cancer – and What You Can Do to Lower Your Risk

January is National Cervical Cancer Awareness month and cancer experts at Intermountain Health are working to educate women about cervical cancer.

Kid holding a cisco fish at winterfest...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

Get Ready for Fun at the 2023 Bear Lake Monster Winterfest

The Bear Lake Monster Winterfest is an annual weekend event jam-packed full of fun activities the whole family can enjoy.

Google is giving its dominant search engine an artificial-intelligence makeover