Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai gestures during a session of the World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting in Davos on January 22, 2020.

Fabrice CAFRINI | AFP | Getty Images

Alphabet and Google CEO Sundar Pichai said Thursday that the company will soon add advanced artificial intelligence features to its search engine.

CNBC reported on Tuesday that Google is testing some of these features with employees as part of a “code red” plan to respond to ChatGPT, a popular chatbot that partially supports Microsoft. These include a chatbot called Apprentice Bard, as well as a new search desktop design that can be used in a question-and-answer format.

“Very soon, people will be able to interact directly with our newest, most powerful language model as a search companion in experimental and innovative ways,” he said, referring to Google’s LaMDA conversational technology, or language model for dialog applications.

Pichai said he will release a larger language model “in the coming weeks and months” so the company can get more feedback.

Executives returned to the subject of artificial intelligence frequently during the company’s Q4 earnings call. “Artificial intelligence is the most profound technology we are working on today,” Pichai said in his opening remarks.

The effort to draw attention to artificial intelligence comes at a time when the company faces pressure on its core advertising business and a competitive threat from one of its historical arch-rivals.

Thursday’s earnings report marked the fourth straight quarter in which the company missed Wall Street expectations for both profit and revenue, according to estimates of expectations provided by Refinitiv. Weakness in the advertising business was reflected in an 8% decline in YouTube ad revenue and a 2% decline in Google’s search and other services revenue.

Google is also facing pressure from the buzz surrounding ChatGPT, which was launched late last year by Microsoft-backed OpenAI. Google’s core business is web search, and the company has long touted itself as a pioneer in artificial intelligence. But generative AI products like ChatGPT may pose a threat to the entire internet search model as they can provide creative answers to more complex queries. Microsoft is reportedly considering adding a ChatGPT feature to its own Bing search engine. The threat of falling behind in AI reportedly even prompted Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin to take a direct interest in Google’s efforts years after they stepped down from day-to-day work at the company in 2019.

In addition to touting future search improvements, the company also said that starting in the first quarter, it will change the financial reporting structure for its DeepMind artificial intelligence segment to go to Google instead of the “Other Bets” segment, which includes long-term projects. payments, such as self-driving cars and venture capital investments.

Google bought the London-based company in 2014 for more than $500 million, then placed it under the Other Bets umbrella when the company was reorganized into Alphabet in 2015. DeepMind turned a profit for the first time in 2021.

This reporting change “reflects Deepmind’s strategic focus on supporting each of our segments,” Alphabet Chief Financial Officer Ruth Porath said during Thursday’s earnings call.

“To be very clear, we only consolidate other Google bets when that bid supports products and services at Google or Alphabet as a whole,” Porat added, referring to the Chronicle cybersecurity company that it spun off into Google’s cloud division in 2019. “It was very effective.”

Pichai also said the company will also provide “new tools” and APIs for developers, creators and partners to “enable them to unlock new possibilities with AI. He added that “these models are particularly amazing to assemble, construct, and generalize.”

But Pichai also cautioned that it would need to be rolled out slowly, saying he considered widespread use of the language “early days.”

CNBC previously reported that employees were asked about the threat from ChatGPT in an internal meeting, and Google’s Jeff Dean told employees that Google has a much greater “reputational risk” in providing incorrect information and is therefore moving “more conservatively than a small startup”.

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