Here’s an AI tool you probably hadn’t considered. Google’s AI-powered Search Generative Experience (SGE) is getting a slew of updates this December, including a feature that lets you dream up a product out of thin air with artificial intelligence, and then search the web for something similar that exists in the real world.
“We’re introducing a new way to put the item that’s on your mind right into your shopping cart with AI-powered image generation for shopping,” said Julie Black, Google’s Director of Product for Consumer Shopping, in a blog post. “Soon when you use SGE to look for apparel, you’ll have the option to generate photorealistic images inspired by the words you search — and shop products that match those images.”
For example, let’s say you’re shopping for a winter coat. You type that in, and Google will generate an image, that you can then alter with additional prompts, say “more colorful,” or “give it shiny metallic fabric.” Once you’re done, Google’s image recognition will search through the 35 billion products plugged into Google’s Shopping tool and find the closest thing on the web.
This new update comes with a slew of other AI updates to Google’s shopping tools, some of which are available right away. For users who opt-in, Google will suggest other AI-generated gift ideas based on your search terms for inspiration. If you’re shopping for an amateur chef, but don’t know what to look for, you can type in “great gifts for home cooks.” Google will then make AI-powered suggestions like specialty tools, artisanal ingredients, culinary subscriptions, or experiences like cooking classes.
There’s also a new virtual home try-on feature. That tool has been available to women for a while, but as of today, Google’s expanded it to men’s tops. Enter that phrase, and the company will pull up results from participating brands—including Abercrombie, Banana Republic, J.Crew, and Under Armour—and offer you a “try on” button. Google then shows you AI-generated images of models wearing the clothes. You can pick from a selection of models who look like you based on factors like body type and skin color.
Google’s SGE is only available if you opt in. Eligible users (there are a bunch of restrictions) can check it out here.
All three of these tools are an early glimpse of the promised revolution that AI is supposed to bring to looking things up on the internet. In the early days of ChatGPT, there was a widespread conversation about what a threat AI posed to Google’s Search business. That talk has largely died down, but there was a real idea lurking in the background.
Google Search (and its largely insignificant competitors) have organized the web in a very specific way, primarily based on identifying keywords on a page. You have to put your query into words that Google can understand to find what you’re looking for. Essentially, we’re shaping our thoughts for a computer. The long-term vision of AI is that the computers will finally be able to speak our language so you can ask questions the same way you’d talk to another person. If anyone can realize that dream, it will turn the internet upside down, and take the world along with it.
These new shopping tools from Google seem fun; perhaps they’ll be useful, or they might just be gimmicks. Either way, they may be an important preview of the future.