Google bet­ting big on AI fu­ture

The com­pany has Ama­zon’s Alexa firmly fixed in its sights and aims to at­tract de­vel­op­ers for Google As­sis­tant

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GOOGLE SAID IT was mov­ing from a “mo­bile-first to an AI-first world” as it un­veiled a host of new prod­ucts at its I/O con­fer­ence.

The com­pany an­nounced sev­eral new fea­tures for its Google Home speaker at I/O, in­clud­ing voice call­ing, and the abil­ity to use Google Ac­tions – the equiv­a­lent of Ama­zon’s Skills – on An­droid de­vices.

The fo­cus on AI de­vel­op­ment echoed the tone of Mi­crosoft’s re­cent de­vel­oper con­fer­ence, but it’s Ama­zon the com­pany has fixed in its sights, ac­cord­ing to an­a­lysts. “Google needed to ur­gently re­spond to Ama­zon’s stealth takeover of the home and be­yond with Alexa,” said Ge­off Blaber, head of mo­bile de­vice soft­ware re­search at CCS In­sight.

“Google As­sis­tant is be­com­ing the glue that con­nects search, de­vices and a host of Google and third-party ser­vices,” Blaber added. “It’s not only cen­tral to the fu­ture of search, but also the long-term rel­e­vance of Google as a gate­way to oth­ers’ apps and ser­vices. As­sis­tant is be­gin­ning to emerge as the real plat­form for de­vel­op­ers.”

In a bid to at­tract de­vel­op­ers and im­prove its AI and deep learn­ing cre­den­tials, Google also an­nounced that it would be in­tro­duc­ing ten­sor pro­cess­ing units (TPUs) de­vel­oped specif­i­cally for ma­chine learn­ing.

Ac­cord­ing to CCS In­sight, Google promised to help de­vel­op­ers cre­ate bet­ter cloud and ma­chine learn­ing tools for its As­sis­tant and sent out a “clear mes­sage in de­vel­oper ses­sions with its com­mit­ment to democratis­ing the hard­ware needed by en­abling ac­cess to its TPUs”.

Google said it would pro­vide de­vel­op­ers with a clus­ter of 1,000 cloud-based TPUs to play with for free, of­fer­ing 180 ter­aflops of float­ing point per­for­mance for model train­ing and in­fer­ence.

“This is a clever move and builds on Google Cloud’s core strengths in ed­u­ca­tion,” said Blaber. “It po­si­tions Google and its Ten­sorFlow frame­work at the heart of academia — the group that is spear­head­ing the ad­vance­ment of ma­chine and deep learn­ing.”

ABOVE Google is woo­ing de­vel­op­ers with free ac­cess to “ten­sor pro­cess­ing units” for ma­chine learn­ing

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