Google calls in the big guns. A rival chatbot has shaken the tech giant, leading it to re-engage with its founders. ' This is a moment of great vulnerability for Google.

Last month, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, Google's founders, held several meetings with company executives. The topic : rival's new chatbot, a clever A.I. product that looked as if it could be the ''first notable threat'' in decades to Google's $149 billion search business.

Mr. Page and Mr. Brin, who had not spent much time at Google since they left their daily roles with the company in 2019, reviewed Google's artificial intelligence product strategy, according to two people with knowledge of the meetings who were not allowed to discuss them.

THEY approved plans and pitched ideas to put more chatbot features into Google's search engine. And they offered advice to the company leaders, who have put A.I. front and center in their plans.

The re-engagement of Google's founders, at the invitation of the company's current chief executive, Sundar Pichai, emphasized the urgency felt among many Google executives about artificial intelligence and that chatbot, ChatGPT.

The bot, which was released two months ago by the small San Francisco company OpenAI, amazed users by simply explaining complex concepts and generating ideas from scratch. More important to Google, it looked as if it could offer a new way to search for information on the internet.

THE NEW A.I. technology has shaken Googleout of its routine. Mr. Pichai declared a ''code red,'' upending existing plans and jump starting A.I. development.

Google now intends to unveil more than 20 new products and demonstrate a version of its search engine with chatbot features this year, according to a slide presentation reviewed by The New York Times and two people with knowledge of the plans who were not authorized to discuss them.

''This is a moment of significant vulnerability for Google,'' said D. Sivakimar, a former Google research director who helped found a start-up called Tonita, which makes search technology for e-commerce companies.

''ChatGPT has put a stake in the ground, saying  'Here's what a compelling new search experience could look like.' '' Mr. Sivakumar added that Google had overcome previous challenges and could deploy its arsenal of A.I. to stay competitive.

Since stepping back from day-to-day duties, Mr. Page and Mr. Brin have taken a laissez-faire approach to Google, two people familiar with the matter said. They have allowed Mr.Pichai to run the company and its parent company, Alphabet, while they have pursued other projects, such as flying-car start-ups and disaster relief efforts.

Their visits to the company's Silicon Valley offices in the last few years have been to check-in on the so-called moonshot projects that Alphabet calls 'Other Bets,'  one person said. Until recently they have not been very involved with the search engine.

But they have long been keen on bringing A.I. into Google's products. Vic Gundotra, a former senior vice president at Google, recounted that he gave Mr. Page a demonstration of a new Gmail feature around 2008. But Mr. Page was unimpressed by the effort, asking, ''Why can't it automatically write that email for you? ''

In 2014, Google also acquired DeepMind, a leading A.I. research lab in London.

The World Students Society thanks author Nico Grant.


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