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In the AI Arms Race, Google Bard Morphs Into Gemini

But Google charges $20 a month to use its more advanced artificial intelligence technology


spinner image a laptop with the gemini constellation and symbol on it
Photo Collage: AARP; (Source: Getty Images (3))

Google’s artificial intelligence chatbot Bard has been renamed Google Gemini. 

With the name change, Google launched a new Gemini mobile app for Android on Feb. 8. In the coming weeks, Gemini’s features also will be rolled into the Google app on iOS for Apple iPhones and iPads.

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As before, you can access Bard-turned-Genesis on the web. But what had been the bard.google.com web address becomes gemini.google.com.

In the past year or so, the sizzling battle for generative AI solutions has exploded into something of an arms race with Google’s Gemini rivaling ChatGPT from Silicon Valley start-up OpenAI and Copilot from Microsoft. The latter also had its own rebranding with the Copilot name replacing Bing Chat. 

Generative AI spits out text and sometimes images it creates based on patterns of data it has accumulated when users prompt it with their questions or images.  

Google separately announced a version of its AI called Gemini Advanced, which the Alphabet-owned company says gives folks access to its most capable artificial intelligence technology yet that it calls Ultra 1.0. You can write computer code, follow nuanced instructions, role play as a character from a novel or produce fantasy images.

You must pay for the latest features

The advanced version isn’t free. You’ll get two months gratis to try Gemini Advanced, after which you must fork over $19.99 a month and subscribe to the Google One Premium plan.

You won’t need a separate Google One subscription if you are already a paying customer, but you will need to upgrade to the $19.99 plan. That plan will let you use Gemini Advanced in Google apps, notably Docs, Gmail, Sheets and Slides, and comes with 2 terabytes of storage across Google Drive and Google Photos.

Google’s pricing is in line with what competitors charge for their own AI-based subscription plans

The OpenAI tab is $20 a month for a GPT Plus plan that lets you exploit the more advanced ChatGPT 4.0. That version’s large language model (LLM) has been trained with data up to April 2023, though by combining results with research from Microsoft Bing it may produce information that is more up to date. By contrast, the free ChatGPT 3.5 cutoff is January 2022 and does lean on Bing for more timely results.

GPT Plus also gives subscribers extra tools such as the DALL-E AI image generator and the ability to add or create their own tailored versions of ChatGPT called GPTs. These “lite” versions of ChatGPT might help you cook, write, even do laundry.

Microsoft’s Copilot Pro subscription also costs $20 a month. It lets subscribers employ Copilot with Microsoft 365 apps such as Excel, OneNote, Outlook, PowerPoint and Word, and because of Microsoft’s huge investment in OpenAI, the fee gives them access to GPT 4. 

Microsoft is also rolling out new features. It just announced that Copilot subscribers can apply various effects to images, such as blurring backgrounds, resizing between square and landscape, and giving more pop to an object’s colors.

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Meanwhile, a promising new AI-based search engine, Perplexity, also has a $20 a month subscription with more advanced features than the free version.

Gemini is the new assistant

If you download the free new Google Gemini app on Android, you can enter prompts by typing, speaking or sharing an image. For example, were you to get a flat tire, you can snap a picture of the damaged tire with your phone and ask the AI to tell you what to do next, says Google’s vice president and general manager for Gemini experiences, Sissie Hsiao.

Or if you’re planning a dinner party, you can have Gemini create a custom image for the invitation. 

Worth noting: If you download the Android app and opt in, Gemini will become the primary assistant on your phone replacing Google Assistant, which only recently began to incorporate generative AI.

You’ll be able to summon it in the same way. Depending on your device, you can hit the power button, swipe from the corner of the display or say, “Hey, Google.” 

The Gemini app will feature an overlay that will let you accomplish various tasks, Hsiao says. You might generate a caption based on a picture that appears behind it or ask questions about an article you’re reading. 

Other Google Assistant-type features also will be available within the Gemini app, letting you make calls, set timers and control smart home devices with your voice, she says.

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