When OpenAI’s ChatGPT opened a new era in tech, the industry’s former AI champ, Google, responded by reorganizing its labs and launching a profusion of sometimes overlapping AI services. This included the Bard chatbot, workplace helper Duet AI, and a chatbot-style version of search.

Now Google is consolidating many of its generative AI products under the banner of its latest AI model Gemini—and taking direct aim at OpenAI’s subscription service ChatGPT Plus.

Google announced today that Bard, its experimental chatbot hurriedly launched last March, is now called Gemini—taking the same name of the text, voice, and image capable AI model that started powering the Bard chatbot back in December. Gemini is also getting more prominent positioning among Google’s services. It will have its own app on Android phones, and on Apple mobile devices Gemini will be baked into the primary Google app.

When Google first unveiled the Gemini AI model it was portrayed as a new foundation for its AI offerings, but the company had held back the most powerful version, saying it needed more testing for safety. That version, Gemini Ultra, is now being made available inside a premium version of Google’s chatbot, called Gemini Advanced. Accessing it requires a subscription to a new tier of the Google One cloud backup service called AI Premium. Typically, a $10 subscription to Google One comes with 2 terabytes of extra storage and other benefits; now that same package is available with Gemini Advanced thrown in for $20 per month.

That new bundle from Google offers significantly more than a subscription to OpenAI’s ChatGPT Plus, which costs $20 a month. The service includes access to the company’s most powerful version of its chatbot and also OpenAI’s new “GPT store,” which offers custom chatbot functions crafted by developers. For the same monthly cost, Google One customers can now get extra Gmail, Drive, and Photo storage in addition to a more powerful chat-ified search experience.

Personality Upgrade

Sissie Hsiao, a VP at Google and general manager for Google Assistant and Bard, said in a media briefing ahead of today’s launch that Google conducted blind tests with users of Gemini and other leading chatbots and found the Google offering to be “the most preferred chatbot.”

Hsiao said Google also gave 100 leading AI experts access to the advanced version of Gemini and asked them to challenge the bot with complex requests. “They’ve been really excited and giving us really positive feedback.”

Google says the new Gemini will now have more attitude—a departure from the more neutral tone that it previously adopted—and will “understand intent and react with personality,” according to Jack Krawczyk, a Google director of product management. That may be inspired by the downright ebullient chatbots launched by some smaller AI upstarts, such as Pi from startup Inflection AI and the various app-specific personae that ChatGPT’s custom GPTs now have.


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