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Google's new AI features are like your worst nightmare

Google's new AI features are like your worst nightmare


The Google I/O 2024 keynote focused on AI. It uses a lot of AI. We all knew it was going to happen, but I joined this exciting company hoping it would show me what I really wanted: AI with personality. Sadly, once again, all of the AI ​​that appeared on the show did variations of the same old things without any fun, excitement, or joy.

Given the overload on AI these days, it was precisely at this time that Google needed to roll out its own version of R2-D2 on I/O to spark imaginations about AI. But what we got instead was a Star Trek computer, and oh, how dull and uninspiring it was.

Google AI's life is not my life

Google I/O screenshot. A slide about Gem is displayed on the screen.

Google's Gemini AI creates lists, helps with coding, searches, summarizes, and organizes. You can create a spreadsheet from emailed receipts or create an all-too-accurate schedule for your vacation. If I give it access to the PDF, it will search it and explain it to me, and I can also use a spreadsheet to show me the profits I made from side hustles that I don't have or want. Search, research, summarize, clarify, plan, explain, brainstorm, iterate. It's Google's AI, but what's worse is that there's not one tool to do this, but dozens.

Google spends over 90 minutes explaining these seemingly identical tools using slightly different language and slightly different examples, trying to trick us into thinking we're seeing something new each time. did. There were some creative examples, of course, and some sad and unfunny AI nonsense about pictures of cats playing guitar. But underneath it all the same functionality was still working and doing essentially the same thing. I can't explain the difference between them or imagine when to use them. Because there are only so many times you need to organize something in such detail and twice as fast.

To make matters worse, the sample smelled of shampoo commercial desperation. They represent an ambitious lifestyle far removed from mine, and the features described are all basically the same and a little boring, so it's too far-fetched and I can't imagine myself in that situation. You can't. Google wants me to imagine using its AI shampoo to plan an (imaginary) vacation or calculate the huge profits I made from that side hustle. You suddenly have the time to ask for and suddenly take on an AI assistant. But getting from point A to point B is impossible. Because the AI ​​depicted behind it is completely soulless, devoid of personality, and shockingly dull.

clever but boring

R2-D2 in the desert in A New Hope.

What Google is accomplishing with Gemini is amazing and what it can do is definitely great, but where is the AI ​​with personality that I want to use, that I love to interact with, and that I love? Where's the AI ​​that wants to talk to you? Simply, where's Google's R2-D2? The Star Wars universe's most famous and popular droid performs a variety of tasks, but… , Luke Skywalker's trusted friend and sidekick. If R2 isn't videoing his message or hacking the Empire's computers, it's either a joke, heroic, or just an emotional statement. R2-D2 (I know it's fictional, but I'm not fooling you here) is a robot, probably using some kind of AI, but he still has a personality. I am. Why is Google's AI so fun?

That's all I could think about when Gemini was shown busily searching my Gmail account over and over again. Indeed, his Deepmind Project Astra at Google is impressive, demonstrating a fast, conversational AI chatbot that looks fun to use. It was interesting to hear that this level of quick interaction is difficult to achieve, but again, there was a lot of show-and-tell with the AI ​​in the demo, and I've never seen it before. I couldn't put myself in that situation. This happens several times in real life. Really tell me why I should care about all this, Google.

Google Pixel 8a displaying Gemini Nano.

why? Because I care about R2-D2 and I don't care about Gemini, and that's the problem. I'm probably the only one here, others want an organizing tool, not an AI companion. But I believe that Google and other companies pushing AI forward need fun, interactive, and engaging hardware to handle the logistical and administrative heavy lifting.

It brings AI to life and helps show how transformative it can be in a truly futuristic, sci-fi way. I don't spend all my waking hours getting things done, Google, which is why your AI is boring.

Where can we find good AI hardware?

People who have Rabbit R1.

Google isn't the only company struggling with this concept. Hardware with AI at its core has been making headlines a lot lately, with the Humane AI Pin and Rabbit R1 being the most interesting and widely discussed. I quickly realized that Humane AI Pin was never going to be my artificial intelligence friend. Because it's too serious for such frivolity. But the Rabbit R1's fun hardware and cute logo gave me hope that it might have enough personality to win me over.

But after seeing the disappointed look on Digital Trends Mobile editor Joe Marings' face as he reviewed the R1 and hearing how it struggled with even basic commands, I lost some enthusiasm. Ta. I want my artificially intelligent friends to be at least competent. Personality doesn't really matter when Alexa, Siri, and Assistant can all do better if you can't accomplish your goals.

Gatebox hardware showing Hikari's avatar.

But before AI was as powerful as it is today, companies were manufacturing the right hardware, but without the right software intelligence. My personal favorite is the awesome Gatebox, which has cute customizable avatars. Your avatar can greet you, chat, interact with you, and even send messages to your phone during the day to encourage simple conversations. I was also excited about his android Neons at CES 2020 before disappearing without a trace, and his residential robot Buddy back in 2018. That's why apps like Nomi, Xiaoice, and Replika are so appealing.

personality goes a long way

Google Gemini creates memes.

Google could have used a better version of the Rabbit R1, its own Gatebox-style device, or its deep pockets to create any kind of domestic robot it wanted, but it chose to do so. did not. It's so frustrating to see the company that brought us futuristic and fun hardware like Google Glass so obsessed with productivity, efficiency, and trying to keep us busy and working. . In doing so, you're wasting an opportunity to make the most fundamental software innovation we've ever seen actually thrilling, which is a crazy statement in itself.

I want AI to be more than just a tool. I want to see an AI friend to get things done, a sidekick when I'm bored or lonely, and the sci-fi hardware that shaped my childhood come to life with this amazing technology. Masu. Yes, it's very difficult, but examples already exist that come close to that dream, so why should Google choose only the most soulless and replaceable examples to show off? Is not it?

At the end of his keynote, Google CEO Sundar Pichai gleefully said that the phrase AI was used more than 120 times throughout the presentation, and of course that Google was using AI to keep count. I know it was supposed to be a knowing inside joke, but it's a painful reminder that despite so many references, so little of it actually sticks in my memory. It was also a thought. At this point, I realized that AI really is just a bland tool and a depressingly wasted opportunity.




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