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Artifical Intelligence

The AI revolution goes
on and on

The recent Google I/O and Microsoft Build conferences opened new floodgates of artificial intelligence advances, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.

There are several words and buzz-phrases that tend to be banned in writing about technology, as they are overused to the point of being meaningless. These include “revolutionary” and “game-changer”, and the clue to just how meaningless they are usually lies in the fact that they refer to products or services that have not yet entered the market. In short, the hype is more about hope than reality.

The one area where this does not seem to apply is artificial intelligence, which is a revolution that keeps living up to its hype.

In the last few weeks, two of the most valuable companies in the world, Microsoft and Google, hosted conferences where they each opened floodgates of new AI capabilities, products and potentials.

Google got the ball rolling at its I/O 2024 conference, where it announced Gemini 1.5 Pro, the new version of its AI model, which can now “reason” across text, image, and audio. It is being integrated into Google business products.

Google Search results, where many users are already seeing the use of AI to summarise results, will now use AI to organise lists of search results more effectively.

Then there is NotebookLM, Google’s note-taking app, which will use Gemini 1.5 Pro to create detailed learning guides, quizzes, and FAQs from uploaded notes. Eventually, it will include audio overviews, which can turn notes into podcasts. Thought leadership will never be the same again.

While these are the most practical new features and will therefore affect more people than will the more cutting edge innovations, the biggest applause was reserved for Google’s version of the future of entertainment. First, it played catch-up to rival image and music generating AI tools by announcing Imagen 3, a high-quality image generation model, and Music AI Sandbox, which enables music to be created via AI prompts.

The academy award, or rather the prize for the tool most likely to create a movie that will win an academy award, went to Veo, a generative AI model that can create 1080p videos from text prompts. Like the Sora application demonstrated earlier this year by ChatGPT creators OpenAI, it can add cinematic effects.

Clearly, YouTube will never be the same again either.

Microsoft avoided competing head-on with Google at its annual Build conference for developers last week. With the luxury of the world’s dominant computer operating system available to it in Windows, it literally laid out the future of the workplace.

Microsoft introduced Windows Copilot, which will centralise AI assistance on Windows 11, helped along by the dedicated Copilot button that is already appearing on new laptops. It will integrate Bing Chat and various plugins directly into Windows, to help users manage tasks, generate content, and collaborate more efficiently.

Microsoft took the concept to its obvious next step, unveiling a range of new AI-enhanced laptops, called Copilot+ PCs. These are equipped with Qualcomm’s Snapdragon X chips, which enable on-device AI applications. Dell, HP, Lenovo, Asus and Acer have all announced upcoming Copilot+ devices.

Clues that these innovations will wash up on our shores very soon like in the commitment that both organisations announced in the past week to sub-Saharan Africa.

On Friday, Google announced the first undersea fibre optic cable to connect Africa directly with Australia. Named Umoja, the Swahili word for unity, it will run under the Indian Ocean from Australia to South Africa, and then, in collaboration with  Liquid Technologies, will run across the sub-continent to Kenya.

At the same time, Microsoft revealed it  will build a hyperscale Azure data centre in Kenya to service the East Africa region.

Both the increased connectivity and the accelerated data centre capacity will help prepare the region for massive growth in data demand that will result from the ongoing AI revolution.

• Arthur Goldstuck is CEO of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Follow him on social media on @art2gee.

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