Big Tech is using ‘powered by AI’ as a marketing trick
LONDON: (Web Desk) ChatGPT and DALL-E’s 2022 debut sparked a global AI frenzy. Suddenly, a plethora of tools touted chatbot functionality in one way or the other. Whether it is to answer your questions like a search engine, correct your grammar, compose long lines of code, or act like your girlfriend, a virtual one, of course.

 Now Google already had some interesting features under its roof that it had worked on over the years but how could it not jump on this AI bandwagon? Soon, we saw the announcement for Bard (now, Gemini), which was Google’s alternative to ChatGPT.

Its rushed development raised questions about Google, an AI leader seemingly outpaced by a non-profit. So Google intended to include AI in all of its products to stay in the competition.

They went full throttle on AI with the launch of their flagship Pixel 8 and 8 Pro, which boasted a bunch of “AI-powered” features. This triggered a domino effect. Samsung’s S24 launch followed suit, and “AI” became the industry’s new selling point. You can read all about the coolest Galaxy AI features right here.

All new smartphones now carry “some form of AI” in their marketing campaigns. For example, the newly released Asus Zenfone 11 Ultra boasts AI ingenuity “making life easier”. But what exactly do they mean by ingenuity? These are features like real-time transcription, noise cancellation, live translation, and AI-generated wallpapers – technologies that predate the AI hype.

Now, concern is that most of these “revolutionary” features are just incremental improvements of things we have already seen run on transformer models. Only a select few leverage the true potential of current AI’s generative capabilities.

Let’s take “Circle to Search” as an example. It was one of the most talked about features during the launch of the Galaxy S24 series. It captures the entire screen when you bring it up and lets you draw a circle around the subject you want to search for. Well, seasoned Android users would recognize it as a more accessible version of Google Lens that we’ve had for a long while.

Magic Editor is another such feature. Heavily promoted as new in Google’s announcements, it is, in essence, an enhanced version of Pixel 6’s Magic Eraser, which was introduced in 2021. Even at the time, the functionality wasn’t entirely novel. A Magic Editor-like subject removal feature has been available on iPhones since iOS 16. Similarly, Xiaomi devices have offered the ability to change the sky and color tones for a long time.

Smart replies have also been around since Google’s Allo messenger was introduced back in 2016. Live translation has been available in Google Translate in the form of Interpreter mode and also came with the Pixel Buds. Live captions have been a thing on Android since 2019.

It is common knowledge that working on these AI features takes a lot of resources, research, and development, which costs a lot of money. Since phones are usually released on a yearly cycle, people working on these projects usually don’t get enough time to polish the features to the tee. When they don’t bring the expected returns in terms of sales, development teams, and investors may have little to no motivation to continue working on them, thus, leading to abandonment.

Google is the biggest culprit when it comes to abandoning its projects as there is an entire website dedicated to projects that Google has killed off. Samsung and other OEMs are not far behind as they stop working on fleshing out and improving said features and jump on to the next thing. This leaves a bad taste in the mouths of consumers, eroding their trust in the brand as well. Plus any significant innovation that could have been part of a future update just gets left behind.

Samsung’s Bixby exemplifies this issue. Once considered a prominent smartphone assistant with a dedicated button, it rarely gets mentioned today. The launch of Galaxy S24 could have been a good time to announce some new AI capabilities for Bixby but seems like it got left behind in favor of other glamorous features.

The “wow factor” of some of these AI features often overshadows their practicality. This is where the gimmick portion of the article’s headline comes in. Several users, even tech enthusiasts, rarely find themselves revisiting these features.

Take the Pixel 6’s Magic Eraser, for example. It seemed to perform wonders in promotional videos. But in real-world usage, it leaves much to be scrutinized as erased subjects leave a trail of smudged artifacts in the image.

Similarly, Samsung S24’s live call translation has issues understanding accents, and dialects and doesn’t work as well as it should. Bixby Text Call, Samsung’s alternative to Google’s Call screening never once properly transcribed the other person’s message for me. Instead, I had to reluctantly answer the calls just so I didn’t miss out on something important.