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Google I/O and the Mysterious Absence of Google Assistant: The annual Google I/O developer conference has consistently stood as a beacon for the future of artificial intelligence (AI). This year, amid mounting competition from OpenAI’s ChatGPT and Microsoft’s Bing chatbot, Google CEO Sundar Pichai took the stage to assert Google’s continued reign in the realm of AI. The tech giant showcased its rapid advancements in AI deployment, underscoring its commitment to staying ahead in the AI race.

Bard: Google’s New AI Prodigy

The main highlight of the event was Bard, Google’s proprietary large language model, which is now accessible in 180 countries. Apart from Bard, several other generative AI product features and experiments were revealed, demonstrating capabilities such as assisting in code development, email drafting, and generating speaker notes for Google Slides presentations.

The Missing Champion: Google Assistant

However, conspicuously absent from the event was the Google Assistant, previously the flagship AI product from Google. In past years, the Google Assistant has often held center stage at I/O, touted by Pichai as an all-encompassing AI aide integrated into Google’s ecosystem, including search and the Android operating system.


The Rise and Fall of Google Assistant

Over the past decade, Google Assistant played a significant role at I/O, from the introduction of the Home smart speaker in 2016 to the launch of Google Assistant-powered products like the Nest Hub Max smart display. However, the emergence of competing AI chatbots, like OpenAI’s ChatGPT and Google’s Bard, have seemingly eclipsed the once-prominent Google Assistant.

A Shift in Strategy: The Arrival of Bard

With the launch of ChatGPT, Google’s AI strategy underwent a significant shift. Google released Bard in response to ChatGPT’s success, and by April, Pichai began referring to generative AI as a “super-powered assistant”, leaving Google Assistant in the shadows.

The Query: Where is Google Assistant?

The absence of Google Assistant at this year’s I/O raises questions about Google’s AI strategy. Why was one of Google’s largest AI projects excluded from its generative AI campaign? One possible explanation is Google’s rush to compete with ChatGPT, leading to insufficient time to incorporate Bard-style fluency into the older Google Assistant.

The Future of Google Assistant

Google Assistant is not completely in the shadows. Google’s spokesperson, Katie Hutchison, confirmed that the AI assistant will power some exclusive features in Google’s new foldable smartphone and the new Pixel Tablet. Google Assistant currently has 700 million monthly users, while Bard is still in its experimental phase. Google continues to conduct user testing to inform how to apply Bard across its products.

The rise of generative AI bots like ChatGPT and Bard has exposed the limitations of older AI helpers like Google Assistant and Amazon’s Alexa. The challenges of enhancing a traditional voice assistant with generative AI are not insignificant, given the nuanced complexities of voice interaction and the verbose responses provided by models like Bard.

Final thoughts

While generative AI has the potential to improve Google Assistant, the transition requires careful consideration of the significant differences between the two AI models. It’s clear that the evolution of AI in Google’s ecosystem isn’t a straightforward journey, but one that necessitates continuous innovation and strategic planning.