Like a celeb going bonkers with botox, Google injects 'AI' into anything it can

Ads giant flashes TPU 2 machine-learning ASIC

Google I/O On Wednesday, Google kicked off its annual developer conference and media spectacle, Google I/O, at the Shoreline Amphitheater, a stone's throw from its Mountain View, California, headquarters.

CEO Sundar Pichai reviewed the requisite user milestones, noting that there are now two billion active Android devices. Then he revisited his long-running oratory about the wonders of artificial intelligence.

Google, he said, is rethinking all its products and services in light of AI-oriented computing, which covers machine learning, image recognition, natural language processing, and other computational processes that give software some semblance of smarts. As a sign of Google's commitment to AI, the advertising giant made its Smart Reply, an AI-flavored email auto-responder, generally available to Gmail users, after a lengthy beta testing period.

Pichai announced the introduction of a service called Google Lens, which he described as "a set of vision-based computing capabilities that can understand what you're looking at and help you take action based on that information."

As an example, he showed the Android camera app displaying the image of a flower, labelled with its name, courtesy of image recognition technology. Google Lens can help identify images in smartphone cameras, and is coming to Google Photos and Google Assistant. It can, for example, translate foreign language text in images, just like Word Lens and Google Translate.

"The fact that computers can understand images and videos has profound implications for our core mission," said Pichai.

Pichai said Google's AI-first approach to computing extends to its data centers. The company has developed a second-generation tensor processing unit (TPU), which it is making available through Google Compute Engine. These cloud-available TPUs are, we're told, each capable of achieving 180 teraflops, and Google's TPU boards, which mount four of them, can be stacked together into pods capable of 11.5 petaflops of computation for machine learning workloads.

"We want Google Cloud to be the best cloud for machine learning," said Pichai, who also announced the launch of, a web destination for developers to learn more about AI software. Pichai characterized it as an effort to make AI more accessible to non-specialists.

Google's TPU 2 chips, four on a board ... Source

The TPU is an ASIC: a custom-designed chip from Google. As mentioned above, the web giant claims it can do 180 trillion floating-point operations a second, but did not define what those operations are: they could be 32-bit or 16-bit floating point calculations, or a mix of them, and so on. Google's first-generation TPUs are designed to perform AI inference using 8-bit integers; it's not clear what math precision the second-generation units use.

Nvidia's Volta GPUs can, we're told, achieve 120 teraflops albeit when doing mixed-precision 16 and 32-bit multiply-and-accumulate operations. They drop to 15 TFLOPS when doing 32-bit floating-point calculations, according to Nvidia.

Google didn't offer anything in the way of benchmark comparisons, except to say that the TPU2 smokes IBM's Deep Blue, a computer that's about 20 years old – a comparison that is worrying and odd.

As expected, Google introduced Google Assistant for iOS. The new Google Assistant SDK lets third parties incorporate Google Assistant into their products and apps. And this summer, Google Assistant will understand French, German, Portuguese, and Japanese, with more languages to follow.

Broader topics

Other stories you might like

  • Google has more reasons why it doesn't like antitrust law that affects Google
    It'll ruin Gmail, claims web ads giant

    Google has a fresh list of reasons why it opposes tech antitrust legislation making its way through Congress but, like others who've expressed discontent, the ad giant's complaints leave out mention of portions of the proposed law that address said gripes.

    The law bill in question is S.2992, the Senate version of the American Innovation and Choice Online Act (AICOA), which is closer than ever to getting votes in the House and Senate, which could see it advanced to President Biden's desk.

    AICOA prohibits tech companies above a certain size from favoring their own products and services over their competitors. It applies to businesses considered "critical trading partners," meaning the company controls access to a platform through which business users reach their customers. Google, Apple, Amazon, and Meta in one way or another seemingly fall under the scope of this US legislation. 

    Continue reading
  • Makers of ad blockers and browser privacy extensions fear the end is near
    Overhaul of Chrome add-ons set for January, Google says it's for all our own good

    Special report Seven months from now, assuming all goes as planned, Google Chrome will drop support for its legacy extension platform, known as Manifest v2 (Mv2). This is significant if you use a browser extension to, for instance, filter out certain kinds of content and safeguard your privacy.

    Google's Chrome Web Store is supposed to stop accepting Mv2 extension submissions sometime this month. As of January 2023, Chrome will stop running extensions created using Mv2, with limited exceptions for enterprise versions of Chrome operating under corporate policy. And by June 2023, even enterprise versions of Chrome will prevent Mv2 extensions from running.

    The anticipated result will be fewer extensions and less innovation, according to several extension developers.

    Continue reading
  • Apple dev roundup: Weather data meets privacy, and other good stuff
    No AR/VR glasses but at least RoomPlan will let you make rapid 3D room maps

    WWDC Apple this week at its Worldwide Developer Conference delivered software development kits (SDKs) for beta versions of its iOS 16, iPadOS 16, macOS 13, tvOS 16, and watchOS 9 platforms.

    For developers sold on seeking permission from Apple to distribute their software and paying a portion of revenue for the privilege, it's a time to celebrate and harken to the message from the mothership.

    While the consumer-facing features in the company's various operating systems consist largely of incremental improvements like aesthetic and workflow enhancements, the developer APIs in the underlying code should prove more significant because they will allow programmers to build apps and functions that weren't previously possible. Many of the new capabilities are touched on in Apple's Platforms State of the Union presentation.

    Continue reading
  • I was fired for blowing the whistle on cult's status in Google unit, says contractor
    The internet giant, a doomsday religious sect, and a lawsuit in Silicon Valley

    A former Google video producer has sued the internet giant alleging he was unfairly fired for blowing the whistle on a religious sect that had all but taken over his business unit. 

    The lawsuit demands a jury trial and financial restitution for "religious discrimination, wrongful termination, retaliation and related causes of action." It alleges Peter Lubbers, director of the Google Developer Studio (GDS) film group in which 34-year-old plaintiff Kevin Lloyd worked, is not only a member of The Fellowship of Friends, the exec was influential in growing the studio into a team that, in essence, funneled money back to the fellowship.

    In his complaint [PDF], filed in a California Superior Court in Silicon Valley, Lloyd lays down a case that he was fired for expressing concerns over the fellowship's influence at Google, specifically in the GDS. When these concerns were reported to a manager, Lloyd was told to drop the issue or risk losing his job, it is claimed. 

    Continue reading
  • UK competition watchdog seeks to make mobile browsers, cloud gaming and payments more competitive
    Investigation could help end WebKit monoculture on iOS devices

    The United Kingdom's Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) on Friday said it intends to launch an investigation of Apple's and Google's market power with respect to mobile browsers and cloud gaming, and to take enforcement action against Google for its app store payment practices.

    "When it comes to how people use mobile phones, Apple and Google hold all the cards," said Andrea Coscelli, Chief Executive of the CMA, in a statement. "As good as many of their services and products are, their strong grip on mobile ecosystems allows them to shut out competitors, holding back the British tech sector and limiting choice."

    The decision to open a formal investigation follows the CMA's year-long study of the mobile ecosystem. The competition watchdog's findings have been published in a report that concludes Apple and Google have a duopoly that limits competition.

    Continue reading
  • Google recasts Anthos with hitch to AWS Outposts
    If at first you don't succeed, change names and try again

    Google Cloud's Anthos on-prem platform is getting a new home under the search giant’s recently announced Google Distributed Cloud (GDC) portfolio, where it will live on as a software-based competitor to AWS Outposts and Microsoft Azure Stack.

    Introduced last fall, GDC enables customers to deploy managed servers and software in private datacenters and at communication service provider or on the edge.

    Its latest update sees Google reposition Anthos on-prem, introduced back in 2020, as the bring-your-own-server edition of GDC. Using the service, customers can extend Google Cloud-style management and services to applications running on-prem.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022