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Google Assistant and LaMDA want to be the friend you can always talk to about anything

By Nadeem Sarwar May 18, 2021, 1:51 pm

Google Assistant has come a long way since its introduction, adding new capabilities over the years to get work done with just a simple voice command. Well, it’s called Assistant for a reason – to assist us. But one area where the ‘robotic’ or ‘artificial’ aspect of it becomes apparent is when you try to have a conversation with it. Well, Google is soon going to solve that aspect with LaMDA, a new conversation technology that focuses on natural language understanding.

LaMDA follows an open domain design, which means it can have a conversation on any topic imaginable. And oh, it won’t come up with the same response twice if you start a conversation on the same topic again. The whole idea is to create a model that follows a progressive approach to conversations, just like a regular chat between two people where the topics evolve and the point of focus keeps shifting.

LaMDA

LaMDA — short for “Language Model for Dialogue Applications” — can engage in a free-flowing way about a seemingly endless number of topics, an ability we think could unlock more natural ways of interacting with technology and entirely new categories of helpful applications,” Google says. The company makes it clear that its latest breakthrough was centered around dialogue, and not just answering your queries in a bland manner, and the four principles guiding it are fairness, accuracy, safety, and privacy.

However, a lot of work still remains to be done, especially when it comes to issues such as AI bias. Google CEO Sundar Pichai says LaMDA is being developed with AI principles at the top of the priority list. For now, it has been trained only on text, but the company is already at work on building models trained across multiple formats such as audio, images, videos.

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In fact, LaMDA will make the Google Assistant smart enough to recognize specific elements in a video and will take you to a particular point if you say something like “Take me to the point with the lion roaring” while playing a video.

A more humane AI assistant

All these capabilities for Google Assistant sound very promising, but what truly intrigues me – and instills hope – is the conversational approach that more accurately mimics a nuanced human interaction. This can come in handy for people coping with loneliness and depression, allowing them to engage in a meaningful conversation to help them distract and lighten their mood with an engaging conversation.

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