Back in the olden days of last December, we had to go to specialized websites to have our natural language prompts transformed into generated AI art, but no longer! Google announced Thursday that users who have opted-in for its Search Generative Experience (SGE) will be able to create AI images directly from the standard Search bar.
SGE is Google’s vision for our web searching future. Rather than picking websites from a returned list, the system will synthesize a (reasonably) coherent response to the user’s natural language prompt using the same data that the list’s links led to. Thursday’s updates are a natural expansion of that experience, simply returning generated images (using the company’s Imagen text-to-picture AI) instead of generated text. Users type in a description of what they’re looking for (a Capybara cooking breakfast, in Google’s example) and, within moments, the engine will create four alternatives to pick from and refine further. Users will also be able to export their generated images to Drive or share them via email.
What’s more, users will be able to generate images directly in Google Images. So, if you’re looking for (again, Google’s example) “minimalist halloween table settings” or “spooky dog house ideas,” you’ll be able to type that into the search bar and have Google generate an image based on it. What’s really cool is that you can then turn Google Lens on that generated image to search for actual, real-world products that most closely resemble what the computer hallucinated for you.
There are, of course, a number of limitations built into the new features. You’ll have to be signed up for Google Labs and have opted-in to the SGE program to use any of this. Additionally, the new image generation functions will be available only within the US, in English-language applications and for users over the age of 18. That last requirement is a just bit odd given that Google did just go out of its way to make the program accessible to teens.
The company is also expanding its efforts to rein in the misuse of generative AI technology. Users will be blocked from creating photorealistic images of human faces. You want a photorealistic capybara cooking bacon, that’s no problem. You want a photorealistic Colonel Sanders cooking bacon, you’re going to run into issues and not just in terms of advertising canon. You’ll also be prevented from generating images of “notable” people, so I guess Colonel Sanders is out either way.
Finally, Google is implementing the SynthID system developed by DeepMind announced last month. SythID is a visually undetectable metadata watermark that denotes a generated image as such, as well as provides information on who, or what, created it and when. The new features will be available through the Labs tab (click the flask icon) in the Google app on iOS and Android, and on Chrome desktop.