Google made AI a key element in a brace of announcements from its annual I/O developers’ conference, pushing the technology deeper into its Android OS and Bard chatbot.

The company pitched the use of generative AI as a means of enabling users to personalise certain elements of Android smartphones spanning messaging, lock screen and wallpaper.

VP of engineering Dave Burke stated generative AI will suggest replies to messages, offer a choice of writing styles and tips to make missives more concise. Google plans to offer a beta of the features in the coming months.

Also in the works are a range of screen customisation options including new colour schemes, clocks and app shortcuts, all due to become available when Google releases Android 14 “later this year”.

From June, Google plans to offer more wallpaper options, including a cinematic feature which “uses on-device machine learning” to turn users’ pictures into 3D images activated when people move their phone.

Generative AI will provide the option to create images from scratch, with the overall colour scheme of devices automatically adjusted to suit.

Details on Bard updates came a little more than a fortnight after Google revealed it had added software-writing capabilities to the assistant.

Sissie Hsiao, VP and GM of Google Assistant and Bard, detailed the addition of Japanese and South Korean language compatibility as the first step on a road to cover 40 languages.

She emphasised the need for an ethical approach, noting further development of the “nascent” large language models will adhere to Google’s AI Principles covering responsible development of the technology.

It also plans to bring more visual information to Bard, either in responses to queries or in user-generated content, by incorporating Google Lens technology into the assistant.

Hsiao detailed the addition of more export options to simplify use of Bard in creating emails and other documents. It plans to broaden the range of Google apps and services the set-up can access to include its Drive cloud storage and Maps services.

Catching up
Underscoring its product plans is PaLM 2, the second edition of a foundation model Google unveiled in 2022 which it noted can be scaled to work on mobile devices.

Richard Windsor, founder of research blog Radio Free Mobile, noted Google appeared to have moved past a “sense of panic and disarray” within its hardware unit. “Unsurprisingly, the whole show was all about generative AI and how Google is not the laggard that the market seems to think it is”.

Along with “augmenting productivity”, Windsor noted PaLM2 “is also being included in consumer services which are now open for anyone to experiment with”.

As expected, the company also unveiled the Pixel Fold, its first foldable smartphone, along with the Pixel 7a, the latest model in its A-Series.