Generative AI Comes to Google Assistant

At least 88.8 million people are predicted to use the virtual assistant in 2024

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Google plans to enhance its virtual assistant with generative AI technologies, according to a report by Axios, as the buzzy tech infiltrates more consumer-facing products.

This reform will change how people, developers and Google’s employees work with the new Assistant.

Top line

Google has already begun work on revamping its Assistant, starting with its mobile version, per an internal email sent to employees yesterday.

The company sees a “huge opportunity to explore what a supercharged Assistant, powered by the latest LLM technology, would look like,” Google VP Peeyush Ranjan and director of product Duke Dukellis, wrote in the e-mail.

That opportunity is partly because Google has the most popular voice assistant in the U.S., followed by Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa, per Insider Intelligence, with at least 88.8 million people predicted to use it in 2024.

The enhanced focus on generative AI within its assistant has led to changes within the company, including restructuring internal teams and laying off a small number of employees. The layoffs could include at least dozens of jobs, Axios was told, out of the thousands of staffers who work on Assistant.

Between the lines

Google is not the first company to reboot its virtual assistant.

Amazon stepped up AI efforts via a $100 million Generative AI Innovation Center in June. In doing so, the online seller has plans to bring generative AI to its voice assistant Alexa. The idea is that Alexa could not only answer queries but also take action.

As brands increase generative AI investments, whether the AI injection into Google Assistant will lure marketers remains to be seen. While many brands experimented with assistants, the number of interactions was limited.  

Last year, Pizza Hut ran a smart speaker ad campaign that allowed people to claim delivery discounts via Alexa after listening to an audio ad on digital radio stations. Similarly, McDonald’s experimented with Alexa and Google Assistant in 2019 to drive purchases and introduce a new way for people to apply for jobs at restaurants.

Despite the growing user base of virtual assistants, the technology as an ad channel is not one that regularly comes up on the media plan.

Voice assistants like Alexa have been in the market for more than five years, but the tech giants have only recently implemented the means for people to truly interact with audio ads, Timo Kunz, chief executive and co-founder of the startup Aflorithmic, told The Drum, making reporting and attribution tricky.

Bottom line

Tech companies are battling to improve their generative AI products and capabilities.

Apple is one tech company that has been quieter about its generative AI efforts. Bloomberg reported the company is internally testing a tool similar to OpenAI’s ChatGPT.