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In big change, Google to use AI-generated answers in search results

Google said it would introduce AI-generated answers to online queries made by users in the United States.

A cyclist rides along a path at Google's Bay View campus in Mountain View, California
A cyclist rides along a path at Google's Bay View campus in Mountain View, California - Copyright AFP/File NOAH BERGER
A cyclist rides along a path at Google's Bay View campus in Mountain View, California - Copyright AFP/File NOAH BERGER
Glenn CHAPMAN

Google on Tuesday said it would introduce AI-generated answers to online queries made by users in the United States, in one of the biggest updates to its search engine in 25 years.

“I’m excited to announce that we will begin launching this fully revamped experience, ‘AI overviews,’ to everyone in the US this week,” Google chief executive Sundar Pichai said at an event in California.

The feature would soon be available in other countries, he added.

With the change, many of Google’s search results will feature an AI “overview” at the top of the page before the more typical unfurling of links and features.

The search engine’s AI answers, generated by Google’s Gemini AI technology, offer a paragraph or two of explanation with links to the online sources that supplied the information.

“You can ask whatever’s on your mind or whatever you need to get done – from researching to planning to brainstorming – and Google will take care of the legwork,” said Google Search team boss Liz Reid.

The change seems to be an answer to growing pressure from AI-powered search engines like Perplexity and the repeated rumors that OpenAI, the creator of ChatGPT, is building its own AI search tool.

Creators and small publishers are nervous about the change, fearing users will no longer click through to websites to find information.

Research firm Gartner predicts traffic to the web from search engines will fall 25 percent by 2026 because of the introduction AI bots and such features features.

Google pushed back at the suggestion that ChatGPT-style chatbots could impact its business.

“We’ve found that with AI Overviews, people use Search more, and are more satisfied with their results,” Reid said.

“Rather than breaking your question into multiple searches, you can ask your most complex questions, with all the nuances and caveats you have in mind, all in one go.”

– ‘Intuitive and helpful’  –

Google’s announcement was part of an AI-focused keynote presentation opening Google’s annual I/O developers conference in Mountain View, California.

The company will also soon start testing applying AI to searches based on video content as the query source, according to Reid.

Such multi-modal queries were among the highlights of OpenAI’s release on Monday of GPT-4o, an update to OpenAI’s flagship model that could generate content or understand commands in voice, text, or images.

OpenAI’s update to its technology proved to be extremely conversational — able to crack jokes, write songs and help tutor a student in algebra.

Google, like OpenAI, also showed demos of staff members asking its AI to recognize its surroundings through the video camera on a smartphone and other assistant-like skills.

This ability is designed to be “conversational, intuitive and helpful,” according to Gemini Experiences and Google Assistant general manager Sissie Hsiao.

“You can collaborate with the most intelligent and personalized Gemini yet.”

AFP
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With 2,400 staff representing 100 different nationalities, AFP covers the world as a leading global news agency. AFP provides fast, comprehensive and verified coverage of the issues affecting our daily lives.

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