Google’s Gemini assistant is fantastic and frustrating

I don't know how to say this, but sometimes the emotional labor of opening another app on my phone and typing is just too much.

I need to gather the details of an Airbnb reservation from two different confirmation emails and send them to my friends. Or I want to know when to leave this cafe to go home at a certain time by bus. These aren't difficult things to do, but they require enough clicking around different apps or tabbing between screens that I start to think, you know what? I don't really need to send this email yet. I'll just fly out and hope for the best with the bus schedule.

These are the jobs I wish AI would take from me. AI, including Google's new Gemini assistant, isn't up to par yet. But Gemini looks like a glimpse into the future of AI. could what it looks like — provided you are well entrenched in Google services.

Gemini: the chatbot formerly known as Bard.

Gemini can replace the standard Assistant.

Gemini is Google's AI chatbot, formerly known as Bard. It's an app that you download from the Google Play Store, but it's really an element of the Google application It's probably already on your phone if it's running Android. Once it's up and running, you can replace the standard Google Assistant with Gemini and invoke it in the same way as the old Assistant. But instead of just setting timers and telling you the weather, it can do everything Bard did: answer complex questions, make suggestions, and read your emails, if you let it.

This last part is important. Gemini isn't as good a talker as ChatGPT, but its ability to connect to Gmail, Google Maps, and Google Docs is what really makes it interesting.

I asked him to summarize the details of this Airbnb reservation, and he did: taking the information from two different emails and putting it together into a neat little bulleted list. Then I asked him to write an email to my friends with all the details. Most of the time when I ask the AI ​​to write an email or text message, the results are too embarrassing to send to anyone. To my surprise, this one was good.

It really doesn't sound like much, but this is the first time I've been really impressed with AI as a tool to help me get things done. Maybe I lack imagination, but I get bored pretty quickly with ChatGPT; There are only so many times I can think of business plans for a retro arcade or vacation ideas. What I actually want is help with the pile of digital crap I'm constantly sifting through just to live my life.

When Gemini gives me something, like a recipe or a packing list, I have a place to put it

Gemini isn't that thing yet, unfortunately. I think it's far more useful than the classic Assistant, and there are a lot of things I like about it now. There's the little G icon at the bottom of every answer it gives you, so you can Google it and check out Gemini's work. Since AI tends to invent things from time to time, this is pretty important.

I also like that when Gemini gives me something, like a recipe or a packing list, I have a place to put it. Gemini can export responses directly to Google Docs or Gmail. When I get the same kind of things from ChatGPT, they just seem to float in space until I copy and paste them somewhere. They are saved in your history, but you know what I mean.

However, Gemini is not good at understanding context. I told him I was planning to ride my bike to the next neighborhood and asked him for suggestions on things to do once I got there. He spewed out a whole wall of text with suggestions that included, I'm not kidding, scuba diving, seeing live theater, and gambling at the casino. Technically, you can doing all these things in Burien, Washington, but not on a whim in the middle of the day. These are also not places I would casually ride my bike.

Gemini includes a feature that cross-references its responses with Google results.

Gemini doesn't seem to understand the difference between planning a vacation and taking a casual bike ride.

In situations like this, Gemini is like a little “let me Google Maps for you” machine. ChatGPT's voice chat, on the other hand, suggested I visit a few parks or a cafe. He also asked Me if I had something else in mind for my visit, and when I said I might want to buy a book, it suggested a specific bookstore. So thoughtful! However, later Gemini's Google Maps integration proved more useful: I asked for bus directions home, and Gemini gave me the correct route, whereas ChatGPT would have wait for a bus which only arrives every 30 minutes.

Talking to Gemini is like talking to a Google search results page. If you say “Hey Google” and ask it a question, it will give you the answer. Otherwise, you're just reading text. And it is often a plot of text; this wizard could use an editor. I'm also surprised that Gemini can't access my calendar, but there is currently no extension for it like there is for Gmail and Docs. If I want to add something to my calendar, I have to go back to the standard Assistant. At this point I'll create a damn calendar event myself.

Talking to Gemini is like talking to a Google search results page

A decade ago, smart assistants like Siri and Alexa were touted as the next big way to interact with our devices, but across the industry we've seen their progress stall. Right now, Gemini is a completely optional assistant. But it's also easy to see how it could eventually replace Google Assistant by default, especially since Google has recently scaled back Assistant features. Perhaps we've simply reached the limits of what non-AI voice assistants can reliably do.

To me, trading Gemini for the regular Google Assistant seems like a low-stakes gamble. I trained myself a long time ago not to use voice assistants, because they never seem to be able to do what I want. Gemini can always set my timers and tell me if it's going to rain, so why not bank on something a little smarter to help me in my daily life? I hope he learns a few lessons from ChatGPT along the way. In the meantime, I have to go to my scuba diving course.

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