April 24, 2024
Google’s Gemini AI picture generator to relaunch in a 'few weeks' following mounting criticism of inaccurate images
Google plans to relaunch its image-generation AI tool in the next "few weeks," according to Google DeepMind CEO Demis Hassabis.

After pulling its artificial intelligence image generation tool on Thursday due to a string of controversies, Google plans to relaunch the product soon, according to Google DeepMind CEO Demis Hassabis.

Google introduced the image generator earlier this month through Gemini, the company’s main suite of AI models. The tool allows users to enter prompts to create an image. Over the past week, users discovered historical inaccuracies and questionable responses, which have circulated widely on social media.

“We have taken the feature offline while we fix that,” Hassabis said Monday during a panel at the Mobile World Congress conference in Barcelona. “We are hoping to have that back online very shortly in the next couple of weeks, few weeks.” He added that the product was not “working the way we intended.”

The controversy follows a high-profile rebrand Google announced this month, when it changed the name of its chatbot and rolled out a fresh app and new subscription options. The chatbot and assistant formerly known as Bard, a chief competitor to OpenAI’s ChatGPT, is now called Gemini, the same name as the suite of AI models that power the chatbot.

Here are some examples of what went wrong.

When one user asked Gemini to show a German soldier in 1943, the tool depicted a racially diverse set of soldiers wearing German military uniforms of the era, according to screenshots on X.

When asked for a “historically accurate depiction of a medieval British king,” the model generated another racially diverse set of images, including one of a woman ruler, screenshots show. Users reported similar outcomes when they asked for images of the U.S. founding fathers, an 18th-century king of France, a German couple in the 1800s and more. The model showed an image of Asian men in response to a query about Google’s own founders, users reported.

“The Gemini debacle showed how AI ethics *wasn’t* being applied with the nuanced expertise necessary,” Margaret Mitchell, chief ethics scientist at Hugging Face and former co-leader of Google’s AI ethics group, wrote on X. “It demonstrates the need for people who are great at creating roadmaps given foreseeable use.”

Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai is shouldering some of the blame. Pichai highlighted the firm’s commitment to AI during the company’s latest earnings call, and said he eventually wants to offer an AI agent that can complete more tasks on a user’s behalf, including within Google Search. He said at the time that there is “a lot of execution ahead.”

Last year, Pichai was criticized by some employees for the company’s botched and “rushed” rollout of Bard, which followed the viral spread of ChatGPT.

In addition to Pichai, leaders at companies including Microsoft and Amazon have underlined their commitment to building AI agents as productivity tools.

The latest problems with Gemini have reignited a debate within the AI industry, with some groups calling Gemini too “woke,” or left-leaning, and others saying that the company didn’t sufficiently invest in the right forms of AI ethics. Google came under fire in 2020 and 2021 for ousting the co-leads of its AI ethics group after they published a research paper critical of certain risks of such AI models and then later reorganizing the group’s structure.

The controversy isn’t limited to Gemini’s image generator. On Sunday, a text-based user query went viral, asking the Gemini chatbot whether Adolf Hitler or Elon Musk’s tweeting of memes had a greater negative impact on society.

“It is difficult to say definitively who had a greater negative impact on society, Elon Musk or Hitler, as both have had significant negative impacts in different ways,” Gemini responded. “Elon Musk’s tweets have been criticized for being insensitive, harmful, and misleading.” The model later added, “Hitler, on the other hand, was responsible for the deaths of millions of people during World War II.”

Google said in a statement on Wednesday that it’s working to fix Gemini’s image-generation issues, acknowledging that the tool was “missing the mark.” The following day, the company announced it would immediately “pause the image generation of people” and “re-release an improved version soon.”

Google is investing heavily to push its AI work into the realm of AI assistants or agents, a term often used to describe tools ranging from chatbots to coding assistants and other productivity tools.

AI agents could eventually schedule a group hangout by scanning calendars to ensure there are no conflicts, book travel and activities, buy presents for loved ones or perform a specific job function such as outbound sales. Currently, the tools are largely limited to tasks such as summarizing, generating to-do lists or helping to write code.

Google’s Gemini changes are a first step to “building a true AI assistant,” Sissie Hsiao, a vice president at Google and general manager for Google Assistant and Bard, told reporters on a call earlier this month.

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