A New Dawn for Google Assistant: The Shift to Generative AI and What it Means

In a groundbreaking move, Google is fundamentally reshaping its Assistant around generative AI technology, shifting its focus and likely altering how it will function.

This decision comes with considerable internal changes, including restructuring, layoffs, and leadership shifts. What does this mean for the users and future of Google Assistant? This article explores the changes, the potential impact, and the future of Google Assistant.

Is Google’s Commitment to the Assistant Still Strong?

“We remain deeply committed to Assistant and we are optimistic about its bright future ahead.”

The word “deeply committed” has been used by Google on several occasions, often leading to unfavorable outcomes. In the past, similar commitments were followed by the shutdown of Stadia, the controversy over AI Ethics, and the merger of Waze with Google Maps. Now, this commitment has led to stopping all hardware releases for Google Assistant and reduced investment in third-party devices, including cars. The big question is: What will the Google Assistant pivot look like? Will it follow the same path as the previous “deeply committed” projects?

The Transformation of Google Assistant: A Generative AI Reboot

Google Bard, Google’s new large language model (LLM) ChatGPT-clone, is central to the planned reboot of Google Assistant. The announcement was followed by significant internal changes:

“Supercharging” the Assistant means some layoffs and a lot of leadership changes.

“Dozens” of people are being laid off, and there are significant changes in various teams, including the Natural Language Processing (NLP) team getting new leadership, the mobile team operating separately, and the Speech team continuing to support the Assistant.

Understanding the Technical Shift: Can Generative AI Improve Voice Assistant?

The introduction of generative AI into the Assistant raises questions about its compatibility with voice command functionality. While language models are great for generating large blocks of text, they may not directly improve voice recognition, which seems to be a growing issue with Google Assistant. There are concerns about voice-to-text input and whether mixing up ChatGPT with a voice assistant will solve the core voice-related issues. As one aspect eloquently puts it:

The Assistant is actually fine when it comes to processing correctly recognized voice commands; it’s just a question of getting the voice part right.

Revenue Challenges and the Future: What’s Next for Google Assistant?

Google Assistant’s core problem may be its lack of revenue generation. Despite being a popular feature, it doesn’t make money through hardware, ads, or subscriptions. Google’s shift to generative AI may be an attempt to revitalize the product and find a revenue stream. With the addition of Duke Dukellis, who has a background in Google’s publisher-facing ad products, there could be potential moves toward monetization.

Google’s decision to reshape the Assistant around generative AI is a significant shift that raises numerous questions and concerns. From understanding the technical integration to pondering the future revenue model, the move toward a “supercharged” Assistant is a complex and intriguing development. It may herald a new era for voice assistants or signal a worrisome trend within Google’s strategic commitments. Only time will tell how this pivot will impact the industry and the users who depend on Google Assistant every day.