Google offers a more humble vision for the future.

San Francisco — There was a time when Google had an amazing vision of the future: driverless cars, augmented reality glasses, unlimited storage of email and photos, and predictive text to complete sentences.

A more humble Google was exhibited on Wednesday as the company kicked off its annual developer conference. Google in 2022 is more pragmatic and reasonable. It’s more of a business-focused competitor to Microsoft than a fantasy playground for tech enthusiasts.

And it’s all ostensibly intended. The bold vision is still there, but it is still a long way off. The professional executives that run Google today are increasingly focused on squeezing out the years they’ve spent on research and development.

The company’s biggest bet on artificial intelligence doesn’t mean science fiction will become a reality, at least for now. It refers to a more subtle change to an existing product.

Google CEO Sundar Pichai said on Wednesday, “AI is improving our products, making them more useful, more accessible, and delivering innovative new features for everyone.

In a startling short presentation, Google emphasized that its product was “helpful.” In fact, Google executives used the word “help”, “helping” or “helpful” more than 50 times in their two-hour keynote, including a marketing campaign for a new hardware product. , we cannot help.”

It showed off a cheaper version of the Pixel smartphone, a smartwatch with a round screen, and a new tablet next year. (“The World’s Most Useful Tablet.”)

The biggest round of applause came from a new Google Docs feature, where the company’s artificial intelligence algorithms automatically summarize long documents into a single paragraph.

At the same time, it wasn’t immediately clear whether other groundbreaking work, such as a language model that could better understand natural conversations or break tasks into smaller logical steps, would ultimately lead to the next generation of computing that Google has. has been advancing

Surely some of the new ideas seem to help. In one demonstration of how Google continues to improve its search technology, the company “multiple searchIn ”, users can photograph a shelf full of chocolate and then find the best-reviewed dark chocolate bar without nuts in the photo.

In another example, Google showed how to find pictures of a particular dish, such as Korean fried noodles, and then search for nearby restaurants that serve that dish.

Many of these capabilities are powered by deep technical work that Google has done over the years using so-called machine learning, image recognition, and natural language understanding. This is a sign of evolution, not a revolution, for Google and other tech giants.

Although many businesses are able to build digital services faster and easier than in the past thanks to shared technologies such as cloud computing and storage, building basic infrastructure such as artificial intelligence language models is too costly and time consuming, so only the wealthiest companies can do it. can. Invest in them.

As is often the case with Google events, the company didn’t spend a bit of time explaining how to make money. After another hour of presentation, Google brought up the topic of advertising, which still accounts for 80% of the company’s revenue, highlighting a new feature called My Ad Center. This allows users to request fewer ads for a particular brand or highlight topics they’d like to see more ads on.

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