Only Google can make cool AI features look boring

Google Gemini Pro's new token count
(Image credit: Future)

The Google I/O 2024 keynote is over, and if you're interested in new ways Google can inject AI into its products, you probably think you want to see it if you missed it. Really, you don't.

The cool new features and products are there. The problem is they are buried under the most boring and technical I/O keynote presentation ever. Unless you're a developer who uses Google products and the Google ecosystem, it just wasn't for you.

Normally, I would be the first to point out that Google I/O is a developer conference that is meant for developers to learn about development. This is true, and if you fit this description, you should find a way to experience it at least once. On that front, Google I/O is amazing.

But this was the keynote presentation. The part of the week that is supposed to get the "average Joe and Jane" excited about the future so that they want to use the cool new products developers can make using all the new stuff.

Combine that with the fact that a large number of people attending are there as press or influencers, and it makes the whole thing look really weird this time. Members of the tech press are there to tell you about cool new phones and how Google is making things better, not explain the differences between Gemini 7b and Gemini 2b.

If you slogged through it, you did see some cool, even futuristic stuff. Privacy concerns aside, Google can now integrate into your life in ways it couldn't before and even be useful. An example is Google's Project Astra remembering where a pair of glasses were sitting. The days of a lost remote control are over once this goes live.

For every good example, though, we heard a word salad of things that "normal" people just don't care about. Telling developers about multimodal inputs or that they have access to two million tokens is fine. Telling everyone about it is silly because almost nobody cares, or most might not even understand what it means.

Sundar Pichai on stage at Google I/O 2024

(Image credit: Google)

Regular people, and probably shareholders, too, aren't interested in how the fudge is made. We only care about the results, whether they are useful enhancements, new products, or new revenue streams for Google itself. In my past life, I spent way too much time trying to get computers and cameras to recognize the things they were seeing, and having this level of tech would have been amazing. But even I stopped being interested about 20 minutes into the program.

The show started right, with Pichai telling people how Google has spent billions of dollars and over 10 years working on AI and its infrastructure. Google is competing with companies like OpenAI and should remind us that Google has a huge advantage when it comes to experience and scale. It's how Google will "win" the AI race once all the dust settles.

It also ended right. Knowing about how Google is managing the risks that come with AI and what its principles are. That's more important than the products themselves and Google has to lead by example because it is about to dump AI on everyone who uses Google Search.

AI count of 121 at Google I/O 2024

(Image credit: Google)

Everything in between was developer-focused. I know I know, developer conference, but the keynote is also supposed to get everyone excited about what's coming. Google helped create this situation where a developer conference has morphed into a press event. Abandoning the idea seems short-sighted.

That isn't going to happen, and you're going to have to wait to see how any of this stuff matters when it comes to you.

Jerry Hildenbrand
Senior Editor — Google Ecosystem

Jerry is an amateur woodworker and struggling shade tree mechanic. There's nothing he can't take apart, but many things he can't reassemble. You'll find him writing and speaking his loud opinion on Android Central and occasionally on Twitter.

  • notforhire
    Google just doesn't seem to know how this game (presentation) is played. Excellent piece, Jerry (no surprise). And I, for one, always appreciate the curmudgeon overtones.....brings a tear to my eye every time.