It’s clear that the future of Google is tied to AI language models. At this year’s I/O conference, the company announced a raft of updates that rely on this technology, from new “multisearch” features that let you pair image searches with text queries to improvements for Google Assistant and support for 24 new languages in Google Translate.
But Google — and the field of AI language research in general — faces major problems. Google itself has seriously mishandled internal criticism, firing employees who raised issues with bias in language models and damaging its reputation with the AI community. And researchers continue to find issues with AI language models, from failings with gender and racial biases to the fact that these models have a tendency to simply make things up (an unnerving finding for anyone who wants to use AI to deliver reliable information).
Now, though, the company seems to be taking something of a step back — or rather a slower step forward. At I/O this year, there’s been a new focus on projects designed to test and remedy problems like AI bias, including a new way to measure skin tones that the company hopes will help with diversity in machine-vision models and a new app named AI Test Kitchen that will give select individuals access to the company’s latest language models in order to probe them for errors. Think of it as a beta test for Google’s future.