GOOGLE took its next leap in artificial intelligence Wednesday with the launch of project Gemini, an AI model trained to behave in human-like ways that's likely to intensify the debate about the technology's potential promise and perils.
The rollout will unfold in phases, with less sophisticated versions of Gemini called "Nano" and "Pro" being immediately incorporated into Google's AI-powered chatbot Bard and its Pixel 8 Pro smartphone.
With Gemini providing a helping hand, Google promises Bard will become more intuitive and better at tasks that involve planning. On the Pixel 8 Pro, Gemini will be able to quickly summarize recordings made on the device and provide automatic replies on messaging services, starting with WhatsApp, according to Google.
Gemini's biggest advances won't come until early next year when its Ultra model will be used to launch "Bard Advanced," a juiced-up version of the chatbot that initially will only be offered to a test audience.
The AI, at first, will only work in English throughout the world, although Google executives assured reporters during a briefing that the technology will have no problem eventually diversifying into other languages.
Based on a demonstration of Gemini for a group of reporters, Google's "Bard Advanced" might be capable of unprecedented AI multitasking by simultaneously recognizing and understanding presentations involving text, photos and video. Gemini will also eventually be infused into Google's dominant search engine, although the timing of that transition hasn't been spelled out yet.
"This is a significant milestone in the development of AI, and the start of a new era for us at Google," declared Demis Hassabis, chief executive officer (CEO) of Google DeepMind, the AI division behind Gemini. Google prevailed over other bidders, including Facebook parent Meta, to acquire London-based DeepMind nearly a decade ago, and since melded it with its "Brain" division to focus on Gemini's development.
The technology's problem-solving skills are being touted by Google as being especially adept in math and physics, fueling hopes among AI optimists that it may lead to scientific breakthroughs that improve life for humans.
But an opposing side of the AI debate worries about the technology eventually eclipsing human intelligence, resulting in the loss of millions of jobs and perhaps even more destructive behavior, such as amplifying misinformation or triggering the deployment of nuclear weapons.
"We're approaching this work boldly and responsibly," Google CEO Sundar Pichai wrote in a blog post.
Gemini's arrival is likely to up the ante in an AI competition that has been escalating for the past year, with San Francisco startup OpenAI and long-time industry rival Microsoft.
Backed by Microsoft's financial muscle and computing power, OpenAI was already deep into developing its most advanced AI model, GPT-4, when it released the free ChatGPT tool late last year. That AI-fueled chatbot rocketed to global fame, bringing buzz to the commercial promise of generative AI and pressuring Google to push out Bard in response.