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Google's CEO is looking to the next big thing beyond smartphones

Jillian D'Onfro
sundar pichai
sundar pichai

(Adnan Abidi/Reuters)
Google CEO Sundar Pichai

Google CEO Sundar Pichai thinks we're hurtling towards a future where you'll rely on artificial intelligence more than your smartphone.

"In the long run, we're evolving in computing from a 'mobile-first' to an 'AI-first' world," he said on Alphabet's Q1 earnings call.

What does an "AI-first" world look like?

Google has long used a ton of AI and machine learning in its core products.

Investment and research in those areas allows it to serve you the best search results depending on your context (like giving you live sports scores if you search the name of a team during a game), warn you about traffic or the weather, and even write emails for you.

And, for now, finding ways to become more like a smart assistant on your smartphone is a big focus.

"We have a unique opportunity to evolve search to be very 'assistive' — to be an intelligent assistant that helps users throughout their needs, in context, especially on mobile," he said on the call. "That's an area that I spent a lot of time on."

Follow the Echo

But a world in which artificial intelligence transcends smartphones, and becomes truly AI-first, sounds a lot like what Amazon's working on with its smart speaker, Echo, and digital assistant Alexa. With Echo, users can just give verbal, conversational commands, to make it do things like like order groceries or play music. You don't have to worry about having your phone nearby to answer questions or make requests. 

Google, which already strong voice search capabilities, has reportedly been working on its own similar device. In an AI first world, your digital assistant would follow you from device-to-device, whether you're using your phone, computer, watch, or living room speaker. 

Google's current smart assistant doesn't have a name like Amazon's Alexa, Apple's Siri, or Facebook's supersmart chat bot "M," and isn't very intuitive to access unless you have a newer Android phone.

But Pichai hints that Google's strengths in areas like search, geographical information, image recognition and natural language processing, make its potential for assitive technologies enormous. 

"I think we're at the forefront of that development," Pichai said of the AI-first world. "We're pushing hard and getting there."

Google will be holding its developers' conference — generally a place to show off new products and services — in mid-May, so we may get more of a taste of its assistive future there. 

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