Google introduces AI-powered Gemini app and casts aside Bard

Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai speaks about Google DeepMind at a Google I/O event in Mountain View, Calif., Wednesday, May 10, 2023.
Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai speaks about Google DeepMind at a Google I/O event in Mountain View, Calif., Wednesday, May 10, 2023. Copyright Jeff Chiu/Copyright 2023 The AP. All rights reserved
By Euronews with AP
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Google will cast aside the Bard chatbot that it introduced a year ago in an effort to catch up with ChatGPT.

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Google introduced a free artificial intelligence (AI) app on Thursday that will implant the technology on smartphones.

The launch of the Gemini app will cast aside the Bard chatbot that it introduced a year ago to catch up with ChatGPT, the chatbot unleashed by the Microsoft-backed startup OpenAI in late 2022. 

Running on the company's smartphone software Android, the Gemini app is named after an AI project unveiled late last year.

In a few weeks, Google will put Gemini's features into its existing search app for iPhones, where Apple would prefer people rely on its Siri voice assistant for handling various tasks.

Although the Google voice assistant that has been available for years will stick around, company executives say they expect Gemini to become the main way users apply the technology to assist them.

“We think this is one of the most profound ways we are going to advance our mission," Sissie Hsiao, a Google general manager overseeing Gemini, told reporters ahead of Thursday's announcement.

The Gemini app initially will be released in the US in English before expanding to the Asia-Pacific region next week, with versions in Japanese and Korean.

An advanced version of Gemini

Besides the free version of Gemini, Google will be selling an advanced service accessible through the new app for $20 (€18.6) a month. 

The company said it is such a sophisticated form of AI that it will be able to tutor students, provide computer programming tips to engineers, dream up ideas for projects, and then create the content for the suggestions a user likes best.

The Gemini Advanced option, which will be powered by an AI technology dubbed “Ultra 1.0,” will seek to build upon the nearly 100 million worldwide subscribers that Google says it has attracted so far — most of whom pay €1.8 to €9.3 per month for additional storage to back up photos, documents and other digital material.

“Ultra 1.0 is the first to outperform human experts on (massive multitask language understanding), which uses a combination of 57 subjects — including math, physics, history, law, medicine and ethics — to test knowledge and problem-solving abilities,” Google CEO Sundar Pichai said in a blog post.

The Gemini Advanced subscription will include 2 terabytes of storage that Google currently sells for €9.3 per month, meaning the company believes the AI technology is worth an additional €9.3 per month.

Google is offering a free two-month trial of Gemini Advanced to encourage people to try it out.

The rollout of the Gemini apps underscores the building moment to bring more AI to smartphones as part of a trend Google began last fall when it released its latest Pixel smartphones and Samsung embraced last month with its latest Galaxy smartphones.

It also is likely to escalate the high-stakes AI showdown pitting Google against Microsoft, two of the world's most powerful companies jockeying to get the upper hand with this technology.

The battle already has contributed to a $2 trillion (€1.8 trillion) increase in the combined market value of Microsoft and Google's corporate parent, Alphabet Inc., since the end of 2022.

But Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella made a point on Wednesday of touting the capabilities of the ChatGPT-4 chatbot, a product released nearly a year ago after being trained by OpenAI on large-language models, or LLMs.

“We have the best model, today even,” Nadella said during an event in Mumbai, India. 

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He then seemingly anticipated Gemini's next-generation release, adding, "We’re waiting for the competition to arrive. It’ll arrive, I’m sure. But the fact is, that we have the most leading LLM out there.”

The introduction of increasingly sophisticated AI is amplifying fears that the technology will malfunction and misbehave on its own, or be manipulated by people for sinister purposes such as spreading misinformation in politics or harassing people. 

That potential has already led to the passage of rules designed to police the use of AI in Europe and spurred similar efforts in the US and other countries.

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