Google I/O Conference Offers a Moderate View of the Future - The New York Times

SAN FRANCISCO-Google once offered an amazing vision of the future, with driverless vehicles, augmented-reality eyewear, unlimited storage of emails and photos, and predictive texts to complete current sentence.

A more modest Google was unveiled Wednesday as the company kicks off its annual developer conference. Google’s 2022 is more pragmatic and rational – a bit more like its business -focused competitors at Microsoft than a fantasy play land for tech enthusiasts.

And that, in all looks, is according to design. The bold perspective is still out there – but it’s far away. The professional executives who now run Google are increasingly focused on squeezing money out of those people spending on research and development.

The company’s biggest bet on artificial intelligence, at least for now, means science fiction is alive. This means more subtle changes to existing products.

“AI improves our products, makes them more useful, easier to access, and delivers innovative features for everyone,” Sundar Pichai, Google’s chief executive, said Wednesday.

In a presentation brief on wow moments, Google emphasized that its products are “useful.” In fact, Google executives used the words “help,” “helping,” or “helpful” more than 50 times during two hours of keynote speeches, including a marketing campaign for new hardware products. with the line: “When it comes to helping, we can do nothing but help.”

It introduced a cheaper version of its Pixel smartphone, a smartwatch with a round screen and a new tablet coming next year. (“The most useful tablet in the world.”)

The biggest applause came from a new Google Docs feature where the company’s artificial-intelligence algorithms automatically summarize a long document into a paragraph.

At the same time, it is not immediately clear how some of the other groundbreaking work, such as language models that better understand natural conversation or can divide a task into logically smaller steps, will eventually lead to next generation of computing that Google has. proud.

Certainly some of the new ideas seem useful. In a demonstration about how Google continues to improve its search technology, the company demonstrated a feature called “multisearch,” where a user can take a picture of a shelf full of chocolates and then will find the best reviewed dark chocolate bar without nuts from the picture.

In another example, Google showed how you can find a picture of a particular dish, such as Korean stir-fried noodles, and then search for nearby restaurants that serve that dish.

Most of those capabilities are powered by the deep technological work Google has done over the years using so-called machine learning, image recognition and natural language comprehension. This is a sign of an evolution rather than a revolution for Google and other large tech giants.

Many companies can build digital services more easily and faster than in the past because of shared technologies such as cloud computing and storage, but building the underlying infrastructure – such as artificial intelligence language models – is so expensive and time consuming that only the richest companies can do that. invest in them.

As often happens at Google events, the company doesn’t spend a lot of time explaining how it’s profitable. Google released the topic of advertising-which still generates 80 percent of the company’s revenue-after an hour of other announcements, highlighting a new feature called My Ad Center. This will allow users to request fewer ads from certain brands or to highlight topics they’d like to see more ads about.

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