May 15, 2024 - Technology

Google's new AI knows where you left your glasses

Screenshot from a Google demo showing its AI locating a user's glasses

Google's AI assistant, on the phone, guides a user to her lost glasses. Screenshot: Google

Who doesn't want an AI that can tell them where they left their glasses or warn them when they are about to be scammed?

State of play: Google demonstrated both feats yesterday — but now, with these and the rest of the AI advances it showed at its I/O conference, the company must quickly turn its cool demos into useful tools at scale.

  • Showing off the fruits of a research project is considerably easier than shipping a product, as Google's record in prior years has shown.
  • Problems that crop up in going from demo to final release range from cost and scalability to thorny issues around privacy and security.

Such was the case a few years back with the first demos of Duplex, Google's AI technology for managing spam calls.

  • Similar trouble could well crop up again with an AI that is always listening to your phone calls — which it would have to do for Google's scam screener to work.
  • The good news is at least it's a service that's running on the phone, not in the cloud, so Google itself won't be monitoring or storing your calls.
  • As with many of yesterday's demos, Google was vague about when the scam-detection feature might be available. A post on X, formerly known as Twitter, said to "stay tuned for more news in the coming months."

As for finding lost glasses, Google's Project Astra could pull that off because it had captured video of its surroundings.

  • The trick here is letting the AI see everything a user sees — something that, ironically, would be easier while wearing glasses, specifically AI glasses capable of recording.
  • But after a decade of rising concern over privacy, some users may think twice before inviting Google to capture their personal livestreams.

The big picture: While Google's long bets on advanced AI play out, the company also mapped a near-term agenda weaving its Gemini model into every inch of its operations.

The most consequential shift is in search, the heart of the company's business, where Google is officially rolling out AI summaries for search results across the U.S.

  • That means the primary response to your search query won't be a link to a website, but an AI-written summary of information Google has surfaced online.

That sea change has publishers and small businesses fearful of a traffic massacre, though Google insists it's moving carefully.

  • But if everyone lets "Google do the Googling for you," as the company's new slogan has it, Google itself could pay a price, too.
  • Its business depends on a functioning ecosystem in which websites and apps create content that Google surfaces, and Google sells both search ads and ads on destination pages. AI summaries, many fear, will short-circuit that system.

"In a world where everyone gets answers and doesn't have to click on links, the biggest loser is Google," Aravind Srinivas, CEO of AI search service Perplexity, said Tuesday at Axios BFD in San Francisco.

Go deeper: Read Axios' full run-down of Google's AI announcements.

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