Google attempts to flaunt AI capabilities with new search function

“Generative AI” is already the key talking point of the marketing industry this year with Microsoft’s $10 billion investment in ChatGPT-maker OpenAI widely considered a game-changing development. It is within this context that Google, the online marketing industry’s dominant power, showcased its experiments in Search Labs at its developer conference Google I/O earlier this week.

What’s new?

The online advertising giant has been incubating AI capabilities within Search Labs for some time now starting with SGE, short for Search Generative Experience, an ongoing experiment that offers a conversational interface.

In short, SGE will enable Google users to “quickly get the lay of the land on a topic” by asking follow-up questions via AI-powered search returns. For instance, if a user is researching a purchase SGE will use Google Shopping Graph to provide contextual information such as local retail outlets as well as information, like product reviews, etcetera.

Additionally, conversational mode also lets users see how the AI stitches together the context of a query and lets them ask follow-ups to reformulate their query, see below. The user-interface also helps users transition to conversational mode via a series of prompts (see below). 

The new offering will also contain an advertising function with dedicated ad slots available throughout the page, which are still being tested, that will be denoted from organic search returns via a “sponsored” label. 

Speaking with Digiday, U of Digital’s Myles Younger said it’s worth reading between the lines of Google’s announcement noting how it attempts to satisfy users’ attempts for instant gratification.

“Using AI for instant gratification in cases like these seem tailor-made for Google’s massive performance-based advertising and commerce machine,” he said. “Google itself draws this connection with mention of its AI-powered Performance Max ad product.”

He further noted how Google appears to be acclimatizing to an AI-powered world with the SGE experiment having to consider the online advertising giant’s primary multibillion-dollar advertising business. 

In particular, Younger noted how SGE’s “near me” function is geared toward commercialization in this new paradigm. “Near me” searches are a huge instant gratification moat for Google,” he said, “requiring pre-organized geospatial, point of interest, merchant, and inventory data that is difficult to match either in sheer volume or semantic meaning.”

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