Google to combine generative AI chatbot with virtual assistant

By Max A. Cherney

(Reuters) – Google on Wednesday announced plans to add generative artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities to its virtual assistant, and a company executive told Reuters the AI would allow the assistant to do things like help people plan a trip or catch up on emails and then ask follow-up questions.

The Alphabet subsidiary said during its hardware event in New York that it plans to add generative AI features from its Bard chatbot into Google’s version of a virtual assistant, that aims to provide personalized help with reasoning and generative capabilities on mobile devices.

“(A) whole task is done through a couple of simple questions that you’re asking your assistant, which is, we think, a very, very powerful concept,” Sissie Hsiao vice president, Google assistant and Bard said in an interview with Reuters.

Google and other tech companies have been racing to build some form of generative AI into new or existing products. Meta Platforms, and Microsoft have all stepped up efforts this year.

The new version of Google’s assistant will have access to a mobile phone’s camera and microphone, and let users input pictures or audio into the large language model to help answer questions, Hsiao said. It will not include revenue generating features, Hsiao said, because Google is still in the “learning phase” with generative AI.

“We want to learn how to make a great experience out of this,” the Google vice president said.

Google said the new software would be available to its trusted tester program “soon” but did not disclose a general release date. The company plans to release a version for Android and Apple’s mobile operating system, iOS.

(Reporting by Max A. Cherney in San Francisco; Editing by David Gregorio)