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Emerging Tech

Google rebrands Bard AI as Gemini

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Tech giant Google has renamed its chatbot Bard as Gemini and released a dedicated Gemini mobile app with a paid-for AI subscription service.

To access the AI platform, Android users can download a new dedicated Android app for Gemini, while iPhone users can use Gemini within the Google app on iOS.

The tech giant has also added Gemini to Google Assistant, which means that users will be able to have voice conversations with the AI tool.

"Google's Gemini changes are a first step to building a true AI assistant, for Google, Gemini is a shift in how we think about the state-of-the-art technology and the entire ecosystem," said Sissie Hsiao, Gemini Experiences and Google Assistant VP, said during a virtual press briefing.

Google said Gemini is available to users in more than 150 countries and territories, including South Africa, but is restricted to the English language for now.

The firm said it plans to expand language offerings to include Japanese and Korean soon, as well as other languages, but was not clear on whether any African languages would be included in future.

Gemini subscriptions

Google customers in the US will pay $19.99 per month to access Gemini Advanced, which includes a more powerful Ultra 1.0 AI model, Google explained.

From next week, South Africans can access the service for 430 South African rand ($22.75).

Gemini is available to users in more than 150 countries and territories, but is restricted to the English language for now.   (Source: Google)
Gemini is available to users in more than 150 countries and territories, but is restricted to the English language for now.
(Source: Google)

For that price, subscribers will receive 2TB of cloud storage, and they will soon gain access to Gemini in Gmail and Google's productivity suite.

"Google One subscribers who pay for the AI subscription will also have access to Gemini's assistant capabilities in Gmail, Docs, Sheets, Slides and Meet," Hsiao added.

Google's African AI strategy

Google's Gemini rebrand and app offerings underscore the tech giant's plans to invest more in AI assistants in Africa.

The launch as a recent Google study found that South Africans were showing more interest in AI, with Google searches related to AI topics increasing by 370% in 2023.

That survey found that searches for AI reached an all-time high last year in SA and grew 650% over the last five years.

Google's managing director for Africa, Alex Okosi, recently spoke to Connecting Africa about Google's AI strategy in Africa including its AI-powered search and how local businesses can harness the potential of AI.

In August 2023, the company launched a startup accelerator program for Africa, aimed specifically at AI startups looking to use AI to solve local challenges.

Follow Connecting Africa on our new X account @connect__africa to get the latest telecoms and tech news across Africa.

In 2021, Google pledged to invest $1 billion over five years to support Africa's digital transformation through a range of initiatives.

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*Top image source: Freepik

— Matshepo Sehloho, Associate Editor, Connecting Africa

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