AI Image Creation Arrives in Google Search, Though Access Remains Limited

JJohn October 14, 2023 3:46 AM

Google takes another step in the AI realm by incorporating an image generation feature into its search engine. Despite tight competition from Adobe and OpenAI, Google's new offering presents both potential and limitations, available only to users who opt into the Search Generative Experience in Google Search Labs.

Google's AI image generator: grasping inspiration

Google has thrown its hat into the AI image generation ring, hot on the heels of Adobe and OpenAI. This week, the tech giant announced a new text-to-image generation AI feature for Google Search, although there's a catch - it's only accessible to those who opt into the Search Generative Experience (SGE) in Google Search Labs, the company's experimental beta testing service. This move showcases Google's continued belief in the potential for generative AI in Search to spark inspiration and increase productivity.

But that's not all - Google also used this opportunity to unveil another AI feature, this time for drafting written documents. Using AI in Search, users can now create Google Docs-style drafts, which can then be exported to Gmail or Google Docs. This feature, according to Hema Budaraju, senior director of product management at Google Search, could be particularly useful for tasks such as drafting notes to a home contractor.

Access to AI image generator still limited

The image creation feature is powered by Imagen, Google’s proprietary AI image generation foundation model. However, despite its impressive capabilities, the rollout of this new feature hasn't been smooth sailing. Even VentureBeat, who opted into the Search Labs experience via a link in Google's blog post, found the image generation feature to be unavailable. Upon inquiry, a Google spokesperson stated that the feature was just beginning to roll out, suggesting users keep an eye out for its availability.

Google's rocky start in the AI image generation market

Given the widespread availability of other AI image generators on the market, Google's limited access and initial hiccups could potentially tarnish the launch of this feature. Competitors such as Adobe and OpenAI have already launched their own AI image generators, and unlike Google's offering, these are readily accessible to all users. This situation underscores the challenge Google faces in its bid to catch up in the rapidly evolving AI landscape.

Google's venture into AI hasn't been without its missteps. Its AI chatbot Bard, integrated with other Google Apps products, has drawn criticism for producing lackluster results. There are also internal doubts about its usefulness, with some questioning what large language models are generally useful for. Bard recently suffered an incident where conversation links were indexed and surfaced in public search results, despite users electing to share them with only a single third party - another hiccup in Google's AI journey.

OpenAI: showing how it's done in AI

While Google navigates the bumps and pitfalls of AI development, other players are making significant strides. OpenAI, for instance, has reportedly passed $1.3 billion in annualized revenue. This substantial figure is largely driven by the success of its AI product, ChatGPT, which offers a $20 per month individual subscription tier, enterprise plans, and a paid API. The success of companies like OpenAI emphasizes the need for Google to step up its game in the AI sphere.

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