Google is stepping up its efforts to incorporate AI into its search engine, spurred on by competition from Microsoft’s Bing. Google is adding in new AI features that will be released soon in the U.S. and designing an entirely new AI-powered search engine that will be ready at some unspecified time in the future, according to internal Google documents reviewed by the New York Times.
More than 160 Google employees are working on the new AI features, in a project called “Magi.” These features are expected to be released to the public starting in May 2023, although only in the U.S. The initial release will be to about 1 million people, with the continuing roll-out expected to reach about 30 million people by the end of 2023.
Project Magi will bring Google ads to the AI-generated answers on the search engine results page. This is a change from Google’s current AI chatbot, Bard, which does not have ads on its pages.
There’s not a lot of information out yet about exactly what Project Magi features will look like, but some examples the Times reported were displays of options for people buying shoes or booking airplane flights. Another feature could be Google generating software code on request. Both the commercial transactions and the coding would have ads underneath them.
Magi, like other chat AIs, will be able to hold conversations with users and answer follow-up questions. Google is expected to release even more new features in the fall.
This is likely to change the strategies that content marketers use. Instead of companies trying to get more people to click through to their sites, they may need to focus instead on getting their products and services to show up among the options in the Project Magi results.
The Threat to Google
Most likely what is driving this change is the sudden rise of Microsoft’s Bing out of obscurity. Bing had only a tiny piece of the search engine pie – until its popularity soared when it added on AI capabilities in February 2023. Samsung then announced that it might use Bing, instead of Google, as the default search engine on its phones.
The Samsung news, according to the Times, caused Google to “panic.” Billions of dollars are at stake. Google, with more than 93% of the world’s search engine market, was able to be complacent for a long time, but that time has passed.
Future Google AI Projects
In addition to the Project Magi AI-enhancements to its current search engine, Google has other AI projects in the works, including a major overhaul that will create a completely rebuilt search engine with the ability to learn from users’ searches what it is they want.
Google is also working on other AI ideas, including using AI to generate images in image search, teaching people languages by having text-based conversations with a chatbot, AI-assisted music searches, enhancements to Google Earth, and a chatbot that users could query while surfing the web in Chrome.