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Google's Gemini brings powerful AI tech to your fingertips, but is it really necessary?

Bringing generative AI-based Gemini to users' fingertips can aid in altering reality and promoting fake news in a world that is already grappling with these issues.

Edited By: Shweta Ganjoo

Published: Feb 09, 2024, 07:58 PM IST

Google Gemini
Google Gemini

Story Highlights

  • Google is bringing Gemini to Android phones and iPhones.
  • Gen-AI based technology can be used for spreading fake news.
  • Gen-AI based technology can be used for altering reality.

Google consolidated all its AI-efforts last night by renaming Google Bard, the large language model (LLM)-based AI assistant it introduced a year ago, to Gemini. The company also announced that it was bringing Gemini to smartphones, and even tablets, via a dedicated Android and iOS app. While much of Google’s focus is on how this announcement would change smartphone usage in the near future and years to come, there is an underlying sub-text that is important, could have significant ramifications but remains less discussed.

Let’s start with the obvious one first.

Gemini marks the end of Duet AI.

Google while sharing details about Gemini’s availability and reach said that in the coming months, Gemini will be coming to Google Workspace and Google Cloud. This means that it will replace the nine-month-old Duet AI that Google is already offering to Workspace and Cloud users.

“Duet AI will become Gemini for Workspace, and soon consumers with the Google One AI Premium plan can use Gemini in Gmail, Docs, Sheets, Slides and Meet…For Cloud customers, Duet AI will also become Gemini in the coming weeks,” Google and Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai wrote in a blog post.

In essence, Gemini will bring capabilities of Google’s most advanced LLM to developers and creators who need it, which is not necessarily a bad thing. This development will open doors for companies and individuals to deploy more intelligent solutions, improve security, and increase productivity. Fine.

Gemini will take over Google Assistant.

Gemini also marks the end of, or at least the beginning of the end, of Google Assistant.

Google hasn’t exactly mentioned that it plans to phase out Google Assistant as we know it, but devil lies in the details and details matter. Google, in a blog post, announcing the development wrote that Android users will be able to access Gemini by downloading the dedicated app or by opting for it through Google Assistant. Once users have opted in for Gemini in the Google Assistant app, it will ‘enable a new overlay experience’ to access the generative-AI powered assistant, which the users can then access by hitting the power button, corner swiping, or by saying ‘Hey Google’. Furthermore, the company says that Gemini already supports a lot of Google Assistant’s features and that it plans to expand this base in the coming months. You can check all the Google Assistant features that Gemini does and doesn’t support here.

“When Gemini is your mobile assistant, it can help you with some of the same tasks as Google Assistant,” the company wrote in a support page. This clearly indicates that Google plans to make Gemini the default AI assistant on smartphones in the coming days. This argument is further supported by the fact that Google hasn’t released any significant updates to Google Assistant in almost two years.

While Google says that “Gemini will not replace Google Assistant on your other devices, even if you opt-in to use it as your mobile assistant,” it’s only a matter of time when Assistant technology becomes outdated, and Gemini gains all the skills that it needs to take over Assistant’s tasks completely.

However, the crux of the matter lies in the ramifications.

The important thing to discuss here isn’t if (or when) Gemini will replace Google Assistant or Duet AI, but the ramifications that making such a powerful technology easily accessible will have on the society at large. Bringing generative AI-based tools to users’ fingertips can aid in altering reality and promoting fake news in a world that is already grappling with these issues. Tools powered by this technology will, in time, help generate realistic images, which in some cases could tamper with justice. Such tools could also be misused by hackers for spying on their target.

In an example citing the use of Gemini in real-life scenarios, Google said — “You can take a picture of your flat tire and ask for instructions, generate a custom image for your dinner party invitation or ask for help writing a difficult text message.” While these tools can come in handy sometimes, they can also be used to hack to listen in on a user’s conversation, read the phone screen with important financial data and capture images. These are some of many ways making such a powerful and an advanced technology easily accessible could go horribly wrong. You can read about how Generative AI-based image editing tools from Google, Adobe are altering reality one feature at a time here.

Do we really need it?

Another important question to be asked at this point is do all of us really need these tools at our disposal all the time? Sure, a lot of the Gemini-powered features available to any user will depend on the device that they are using, but most smartphones above Rs 40,000 will be able to support most of the features and tools offered by Gemini and more such technologies if not all. This brings us to the question of need.

How many of us actively create advanced images or need real-time translations on the go? Some of us sure do, which is why we have Pro or Ultra level phones that are designed for creators and developers — in other words people who need these tools. But for all others, most of these novel features will turn into a marketing gimmick that they will hardly care to use.

It’s high time we ask ourselves — how much is too much? It’s also time that we decide to make technology safe for all before releasing it to public and then dealing with the fallout (as has happened in case of Facebook in the past). Technology-wise we are at a tipping point where the stakes are too high, and the risks are too great and must tread with caution at every single step.

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Author Name | Shweta Ganjoo

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