Google Cloud Next keynote places spotlight on firm’s GenAI efforts

The arrival of generative artificial intelligence (GenAI) advances will trigger the “most profound shift we will see in our lifetimes,” Google CEO Sundar Pichai said Tuesday during an opening keynote speech at Google Cloud Next 2023 in San Francisco.

They will, he said, “touch every sector, every industry, every business function and significantly change the way we live and work. This isn’t just the future. We’re already starting to experience the benefits right now.”

Google, said Pichai, has “been preparing for this moment for some time. And for the last seven years, we have taken an AI-first approach, applying AI to make our products radically more helpful.

“We believe that making AI helpful for everyone is the most important way we’ll deliver on our mission in the next decade. That’s why we’ve invested in the very best tooling, foundation models and infrastructure, across both TPUs and GPUs. These underlying technologies are helping us transform our products and businesses – and they’ll help you transform yours.”

An example of that, he said, is Google Search, something “we’ve spent the last 25 years trying to perfect and we are still not done. Today, we’re using generative AI to reimagine the experience and take more of the work out of searching. We call this the Search Generative Experience, or SGE for short. SGE uses advanced AI to help you get the gist of a topic quickly with an overview, easily follow up on questions in a conversational way, or even make coding tasks easier.”

On Google Cloud, Pichai outlined how, through Vertex AI, the company’s cloud AI platform, many advances have occurred, such as General Motors using Vertex’s conversational AI feature in its OnStar connected vehicles and exploring other ways to apply chat and document analysis to give drivers information when they need it.

“Tens of thousands of developers are now using over 100 AI models on Vertex, building generative AI applications. We’re working with partners across our open ecosystem to expand the variety of models customers can choose, so they have the right model for whatever they want to create.”

Another offering of note is Duet AI in Google Workspace, which was first launched in June at Google I/O and was made generally available at this conference. He said since the announcement, more than a “million people are already using it to write in Gmail and Google Docs, create custom Google Sheets, generate images from text descriptions in Google Slides and Meet.”

Thomas Kurian, the CEO of Google Cloud, who followed Pichai on stage, said the organization’s “generative AI products are delivering real results in every single discipline.”

Duet AI, he said, is an always-on AI collaborator that is deeply integrated in Google Workspace and Google Cloud. Duet AI for Workspace gives every user a writing helper, a spreadsheet expert, a project manager, a note taker for meetings, and a creative visual designer.

“(It) collaborates like an expert coder, a software reliability engineer, a database pro, an expert data analyst, and a cybersecurity adviser.

“Duet AI helps you use generative AI in every single task you do. Google search simplified the complexity of the internet for every user behind a simple search box. In the same way, Duet AI simplifies the sophistication of generative AI models behind an integrated chat experience. Duet AI in Workspace gives every user a writing helper, a spreadsheet expert, a project manager, a note taker for meetings, and a creative visual designer.”

During the keynote, Aparna Pappu, vice president and general manager of Google Workspace, said the company is working on enhancing the offering “so that we can go from a prompt-based interaction to a much richer contextual interaction. Duet takes into account what you are working on, whether it’s an email, a document, a spreadsheet, meetings, and offers you proactive help, like generating summaries, or suggesting creative ideas, and soon even taking action on your behalf.”

She added that Google can make the promise that with Duet AI, “your data is your data – none of (it) is used to train our models. Strong permission controls mean that no data ever leaks between users, departments or organizations.”

As far as security methods are concerned, Kevin Mandia, the CEO of Mandiant, Inc., a company that specializes in cyber defense, threat intelligence and incident response which Google purchased last year, announced that Mandiant Hunt for Chronicle, a new managed threat hunting service is now in preview.

According to a blog post, the offering integrates Mandiant’s frontline intelligence and expertise with Google Cloud technology to proactively search for undetected attacks.

“Mandiant Hunt can find threats missed by traditional detection mechanisms,” it said. “Mandiant experts build hypotheses using a robust and adaptable collection and analysis strategy, alongside traditional automated hunting that searches for indicators of compromise. This approach focuses on patterns of behavior against techniques and procedures seen in the wild.”

Mandia said that security is “top of mind for every single organization. All you have to do is read the news and you can see a recent attack occurred. At Google and Mandiant, we are on the front lines responding to these attacks and getting a front-line view of them.

“Last year, Mandiant performed over 1,800 engagements to help organizations prepare for, respond to, and recover from security incidents. And we are learning firsthand the new and novel ways that cyber attackers are evading the common popular safeguards continues to grow, and this year, our investigations are up more than 35 per cent over last year. Security is a critical component of any digital transformation.”

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Paul Barker
Paul Barker
Paul Barker is the founder of PBC Communications, an independent writing firm that specializes in freelance journalism. He has extensive experience as a reporter, feature writer and editor and has been covering technology-related issues for more than 30 years.

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