Google rebrands Bard chatbot as Gemini in race with OpenAI, Microsoft

Google rebrands Bard chatbot as Gemini in race with OpenAI, Microsoft

Google rebrands Bard chatbot as Gemini in race with OpenAI, Microsoft

Alphabet’s Google rebranded its chatbot and rolled out a new subscription plan that will give people access to its most powerful artificial intelligence (AI) model, placing it squarely in competition with rival OpenAI.

Google’s chatbot, which had been known as Bard and was its answer to OpenAI’s ChatGPT, will now be called Gemini. A version will continue to be available for free, but people willing to pay US$19.99 for a monthly subscription will gain access to Google’s most advanced tool in its Gemini family of AI models, the Ultra 1.0.

The Ultra model, which becomes available to the broader public on Thursday, performs better with more complex tasks such as coding and logical reasoning, the company said.

The move highlights Google’s attempts to find a business model for its investments in AI, which have opened new strategic opportunities in the market but also require tremendous computing power and other resources.

A statue of the Android mascot. Photo: Reuters

Alphabet chief financial officer Ruth Porat said during the company’s earnings call last week that Alphabet’s capital spending this year will be “noticeably larger” than in 2023.

Rebranding Bard also creates a more cohesive structure for Google’s AI tools, naming many of the products after the engine that powers them.

Google’s highly anticipated AI model Gemini was released in December and features models of different sizes, including one that can run directly on smartphones and the new Ultra 1.0, distinctions the company says will set it apart from the pack.

By offering free and paid versions of its chatbot, Google is emulating the strategy of OpenAI, which charges US$20 a month for a premium version of ChatGPT.

Yet Google brings considerable advantages. Users who pay for the Google One AI Premium subscription will be able to use Gemini in popular products such as Gmail and Google Docs, rather than toggling back and forth with OpenAI’s ChatGPT.

During a demonstration, Google executives showed how people can interact with Gemini using text, speech and images. For example, someone with a flat tyre could take a picture of the mishap to ask for advice.

Ruth Porat, chief financial officer of Alphabet. Photo: Bloomberg

“I think it’s a super important first step toward building a true AI assistant,” Sissie Hsiao, a Google vice-president and general manager, said.

Gemini will be available through a special app in the Android mobile operating system, while for iPhone users it will be tucked into the Google app. Both will be available on Thursday in the US in English. Hsiao said Google is working to launch the product in more languages and countries.

For users who opt in, Gemini will in some instances replace the Google Assistant, a voice-based digital helper that Google has woven into many products and services. Hundreds of employees working on the Google Assistant were laid off last month.

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