When Google discovered in March that Samsung was considering replacing Google search with Microsoft’s Bing as the default search engine on its devices, panic ensued. Bing’s recent incorporation of artificial intelligence (AI) technology has made it a formidable competitor, posing the most significant threat to Google’s search business in 25 years. In response, Google has embarked on a race to build a new AI-powered search engine and upgrade its existing search engine with AI features.
The new search engine, internally named Project Magi, aims to provide users with a more personalized experience that anticipates their needs. The project is currently in development by a team of designers, engineers, and executives working in so-called sprint rooms to test and refine the latest versions.
Google’s concerns about AI-powered competitors were heightened when San Francisco start-up OpenAI, in collaboration with Microsoft, demonstrated an AI-driven chatbot called ChatGPT. Shortly afterward, Google assembled a task force within its search division to develop AI products.
Modernizing its search engine has become an obsession at Google, with plans to integrate new AI technology into phones and homes worldwide. The company has long been involved in AI research, with its DeepMind lab in London considered one of the best AI research centers globally. Although Google has previously used large language models to improve search results, it has hesitated to fully adopt AI due to the risk of generating false and biased statements.
Last month, Google released its own chatbot, Bard, which received mixed reviews. Plans for the new search engine are still in their early stages, but the ambitious project could fundamentally reimagine the search experience. The system would learn users’ preferences and offer preselected options for purchases, information searches, and more, in a more conversational manner.
As part of the Magi project, new features will be added to Google’s existing search engine, with over 160 people working full time on the endeavor. Magi aims to maintain the inclusion of ads within search results, ensuring Google retains its primary revenue source.
Google has invited some employees to test Magi’s features and encouraged them to engage the search engine in conversation. The company plans to release the tools to the public next month and add more features in the fall. Initially, the features will be available exclusively in the United States, with a maximum release to one million users, gradually increasing to 30 million by year-end.
Google is also exploring the use of AI in Google Earth’s mapping technology and music search via chatbot conversations. Other product ideas in various development stages include GIFI, which uses AI to generate images in Google Image results, and Tivoli Tutor, which teaches users a new language through open-ended AI text conversations. Another product, Searchalong, would allow users to ask a chatbot questions while browsing the web using Google’s Chrome browser.
Former Google VP of sales and service Jim Lecinski believes the company has been spurred into action and must now convince users that it is as “powerful, competent, and contemporary” as its competitors, ensuring that it remains a leader in the search engine race. As AI continues to shape the future of search engines, the imminent launch of Magi’s new features may mark the beginning of an exciting new era in technology and user experience.