When Google launched its Bard artificial intelligence (AI) chatbot a little less than a year ago, the name seemed appropriate. After all, it was adept at creating writing in any style one wished. Not quite its namesake, WIlliam Shakespeare, but it was getting there.
In recent months, however, it has become a completely different animal, adding images that are every bit as good as those produced by Adobe Firefly or Bing Image Creator. It can also produce audio and code, and follow nuanced instructions. That meant the writing was on the wall for Bard, and last week it made way for Gemini.
Just as Bard was appropriate for a time of text being generated by AI, so is Gemini an ideal symbol for one of the next promises of AI: allowing every individual to have a companion that can guide them in numerous areas of life, and in the process to have almost a digital twin.
According to one astrological description (courtesy Allure) of those born under the Gemini sign of the Zodiac, a Gemini is “playful and intellectually curious,… constantly juggling a variety of passions, hobbies, careers, and friend groups… These quick-witted twins can talk to anyone about anything.” According to USA Today, Gemini “is an air sign known for its love of change and its ability to shift from topic to topic with ease”.
It certainly sounds like an AI at work.
In a statement released last week, Google said: “Gemini is evolving to be more than just AI models. It supports an entire ecosystem — from the products that millions of South Africans use every day, to the APIs and platforms helping developers and businesses innovate.”
Sissie Hsiao, vice president and general manager, of Gemini experiences and Google Assistant, wrote in a blog entry on Thursday: “Since we launched Bard last year, people all over the world have used it to collaborate with AI in a completely new way — to prepare for job interviews, debug code, brainstorm new business ideas or, as we announced last week, create captivating images.
“Our mission with Bard has always been to give you direct access to our AI models, and Gemini represents our most capable family of models. To reflect this, Bard will now simply be known as Gemini. You can already chat with Gemini with our Pro 1.0 model in over 40 languages and more than 230 countries and territories. And now, we’re bringing you two new experiences — Gemini Advanced and a mobile app — to help you easily collaborate with the best of Google AI.”
She described Gemini Advanced as “a new experience that gives you access to Ultra 1.0, our largest and most capable state-of-the-art AI model”.
“With our Ultra 1.0 model, Gemini Advanced is far more capable at highly complex tasks like coding, logical reasoning, following nuanced instructions and collaborating on creative projects. Gemini Advanced not only allows you to have longer, more detailed conversations; it also better understands the context from your previous prompts. For example:
* Gemini Advanced can be your personal tutor — creating step-by-step instructions, sample quizzes or back-and-forth discussions tailored to your learning style.
* It can help you with more advanced coding scenarios, serving as a sounding board for ideas and helping you evaluate different coding approaches.
* It can help digital creators go from idea to creation by generating fresh content, analyzing recent trends and brainstorming improved ways to grow their audiences.”
Google is also starting to roll out a new mobile experience for Gemini and Gemini Advanced with a Gemini app on Android and in the Google app on iOS. Available in the US only at first, it is set to be rolled out in South Africa in English this week.
Says Google: “With Gemini on your phone, you can type, talk or add an image for all kinds of help while you’re on the go: take a picture of your flat tyre and ask for instructions, generate a custom image for your dinner party invitation or ask for help writing a difficult text message. It’s an important first step in building a true AI assistant — one that is conversational, multimodal and helpful.”
Will South Africans adopt Gemini as their digital twins? Well, according to recent data from Google, searches related to AI increased 370% in the last year in South Africa – and 650% over the last five years. And a new global survey by Google found that South African respondents reported that they were already seeing AI have an impact on the way they access information, learn and work. This is just the beginning, going by what Hsiao promised:
“This first version of Gemini Advanced reflects our current advances in AI reasoning and will continue to improve. As we add new and exclusive features, Gemini Advanced users will have access to expanded multimodal capabilities, more interactive coding features, deeper data analysis capabilities and more. Gemini Advanced is available today in more than 150 countries and territories in English, and we’ll expand it to more languages over time.”
Gemini Advanced is available as part of a new Google One AI Premium Plan for R429,99 a month, starting with a two-month trial at no cost. It includes 2TB of storage, and AI Premium subscribers will soon be able to use Gemini in Gmail, Docs, Slides, and Sheets.