Google (GOOG, GOOGL) announced a slew of new AI-powered features for its search, maps, and lens apps on Wednesday. The announcement comes just a day after rival Microsoft (MSFT) rolled out a new version of its Bing search engine, complete with generative AI capabilities, posing a rare threat to Google’s search supremacy.
The company’s first feature comes in the form of “search your screen,” which lets you search the web for more information about photos and videos on your screen. Google uses the example of a video texting a friend about a chair you might like.
You can summon the Google Assistant on your phone by long-pressing the power button on your Android device. Google’s Lens retrieves information about where you can buy the chair online without leaving your messaging app.
The company has also announced that it is rolling out its multisearch feature globally. This option lets you do things like take a picture of a green chair and then type “blue” to find the same chair in blue for sale online.
You can also search for different shapes of objects. For example, if you want a different style table, you can capture it with Google Lens and then type “round” in the text search box to search the web for a round version of the table.
The company is also adding features to Google Maps, including the new immersive viewing option, which Google showed off at its I/O event in May 2022. Immersive viewing tells you how busy a place is typically, and uses an AI technique called neural radiance fields (NeRF), creates 3D representations of locations to help you see what they are like at a given time of day.
For example, say you visit the Empire State Building. Immersive View can tell you how busy it is at 10 a.m. on a Friday, and show you what it looks like on a Wednesday night when it’s raining.
The idea is that you can see how busy a popular tourist attraction usually is, where the entrances are, and whether people go there more often during the day or at night.
Not sure what a bar you’ve heard about looks like on a busy Friday night? Immersive viewing lets you know. So if you’re in a new city and are the kind of person who likes a more relaxed atmosphere, you can see which bars are more empty, rather than running into a busy bar and walking in before walking out again .
Then there’s Google Translate, which is also getting some new AI-powered features. The most interesting thing is the ability to recognize context when translating something into another language. In one example, Google points out how new can be used in different contexts.
Depending on how you use it, the word can be translated in a number of ways. With Translate’s contextual capabilities, it should be able to decipher whether you mean something you’ve read or something original, and translate it appropriately.
Google’s updates come as the company works to counter Microsoft’s attempt to wrest market share from the search giant through its new Bing search engine. Powered by a more powerful version of OpenAI’s ChatGPT, the new Bing brings generative conversational AI to Bing, which could usher in an era of more personalized searches for consumers.
However, it will take time to determine whether Microsoft’s efforts are enough to dethrone Google. And the search giant is clearly not willing to stand still as Microsoft’s Bing evolves. On Monday, Google announced its own ChatGPT rival, called Bard, and said it will be coming to its search products in the future.
The race is on.
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