Bard and Google Assistant are about to have a baby

Google Assistant on a Pixel Fold
(Image credit: Nicholas Sutrich / Android Central)

Updated with additional information from Google at 7:40pm ET on July 31.

What you need to know

  • An internal Google email detailed a big reorganization for the Google Assistant team, including dozens of layoffs.
  • Bard and Google Assistant will be deeply integrated together, giving new life to Google Assistant and potentially making it better.
  • Bard is Google's AI chatbot that's aimed at competing with Microsoft's Bing AI chatbot based on ChatGPT.

For years, Google regularly improved its virtual assistant — appropriately named Google Assistant — but the past few years have grown a bit stagnant. Google is looking to change that with a new directive from Google's own VP, Peeyush Ranjan, and will begin integrating generative AI into Assistant's framework over the coming months.

In many ways, this seems like Google is ready to make the product baby we expected when it initially launched Google Bard a few months ago in response to Microsoft's rapid expansion of its "BingGPT" generative AI search engine. An internal email to Google employees that work on Google Assistant was seen by Axios, detailing all the changes happening at the company.

Foremost is a restructuring of the Assistant division — which has been around for nearly a decade now — to create a team dedicated to integrating conversational AI with its existing Google Assistant infrastructure. The email suggests that many existing features will continue to be available alongside new AI-powered features, signaling the importance for Google Assistant to continue to work as users expect it while still offering new experiences.

Several dozen roles are being eliminated, and the letter states that these employees have already been informed with a 60-day notice. Several teams will see new leadership changes, and the overall focus of the Google Assistant team will begin focusing on integrating Large Language Model (LLM) technology like Bard uses.

The email says the teams would need to work with "speed and focus" to make changes as soon as possible, meaning we could very well see some major new feature announcements for Assistant by the end of this year.

To be clear, Bard is not going away and the two products are not being combined. Rather, this updated version of Google Assistant looks to be using some of the technology Google helped build Bard with.

More than likely, this means that Google Assistant will become a lot more conversational with users than it has in the past. That could include more complex questions and answers, as well as deeper ties with existing AI infrastructure at Google to make a product that feels more futuristic than the current Assistant design.

A Google spokesperson had this to say:

"Hundreds of millions of people use the Assistant every month and we're committed to giving them high-quality experiences. We're excited to explore how LLMs can help us supercharge Assistant and make it even better."

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Nicholas Sutrich
Senior Content Producer — Smartphones & VR
Nick started with DOS and NES and uses those fond memories of floppy disks and cartridges to fuel his opinions on modern tech. Whether it's VR, smart home gadgets, or something else that beeps and boops, he's been writing about it since 2011. Reach him on Twitter or Instagram @Gwanatu