Difficult times have come for voice assistants. They are still not profitable, require resources to support and have considerable server costs. At the same time, they do not display advertisements and are free for users. Google Assistant is just one of those.
The background is that between 2016 and 2021, Google Assistant was released in the form of eight “smart” speakers and displays. The last such gadget was released in March 2021 — two years ago. But last year was a failure for the assistant.
Thus, Google Assistant began to disappear from Nest Wi-Fi and Fitbit products, lost Driving mode and Duplex on the Web functions, and Reminders will soon become part of Google Tasks.
Such dynamics do not speak of a bright future for the voice assistant, and the situation itself is very reminiscent of Amazon Alexa “success”.
Now, as reported by CNBC, a reorganization of the Google Assistant team is starting, and part of the team is moving to work on Bard. Employees received a memo titled “Changes to Assistant and Bard teams,” which details a number of leadership changes.
For example, Google Assistant engineering VP, Amar Subramanya, will now lead engineering for Bard. Another VP of engineering for Google Assistant, Jianchang Mao, is leaving Google “for personal reasons” and will be replaced by Peeyush Ranjan, who is currently a VP in Google’s commerce division.
“As the Bard teams continue [their] work, we want to ensure we continue to support and execute on the opportunities ahead,” the letter from Sissie Hsiao, VP and lead of Google Assistant’s business unit, reads.
Combining the teams makes sense on the one hand, but on the other they are different products. Google Assistant is a voice assistant that can turn off lights or set reminders, while Bard can generate lengthy answers to questions in the form of a chat. Listening to Google Assistant say it might not be a very interesting experience.
In the meantime, Google Assistant can still answer questions, and Bard can complement Google Assistant’s capabilities nicely. They also have similar interfaces (which also doesn’t help monetization). But for the voice assistant, its biggest problem still remains:
“If we assume the idea of the Google Assistant — a voice assistant that helps you do things — isn’t completely dead at Google, you could imagine a future where Bard’s language model helps it understand what you want to do and will do it, but it feels like the service is years away from something like that. The Assistant today doesn’t have language model problems, though, just voice recognition problems, and Bard won’t help with that,” thinks Ars Technica’s Ron Amadeo.
So far, chatbots have really been able to surpass the interest of users in voice assistants. ChatGPT reached the first hundred in record time millions of users. Meanwhile, voice assistants do not have such a base of active users. But this does not mean that they cannot be used at the same time.
Either way, things don’t look good for Google Assistant.