Google Assistant has enough trouble understanding simple commands, but a breakthrough technology called LaMDA could help the AI have casual, free-flowing conversations. The LaMDA AI is still in development, but Google plans to open it for 3rd party testing in the near future.
Demonstrated at the I/O 2021 keynote, LaMDA (or Language Model for Dialogue Applications), Google built LaMDA on its Transformer open-source neural network architecture. Transformer is usually used for practical applications, like predictive text software and voice assistants. But Google trained LaMDA on casual dialog, giving it the ability to have free-flowing, human-like conversations on any subject.
For whatever reason, Google chose to debut the LaMDA AI in two strange roleplaying scenarios. The first showed LaMDA speaking in the voice of Pluto, a self-described “planet” that discussed current events like the New Horizons mission, the coldness emptiness of space, and claims from scientists that Pluto isn’t a real planet.
The second conversation showed LaMDA in the role of a paper airplane. It described its job as a paper airplane and contemplated how the word “good” could have many meanings—a very zen response to the question of “what makes a perfect paper airplane.”
These conversations were not programmed by Google, according to Google CEO Sundar Pichai. Instead, they were triggered by commands like “hello, I’d like to have a conversation with a paper airplane.” From there, the AI searches for information related to its role as an airplane, plus any topical paper airplane news or adjacent topics (a paper airplane can get stuck in trees, so the AI might look up info on trees).
Sundar Pichai mentioned that he and his son learned a lot talking to “Pluto.” It’s possible that the LaMDA AI may find early applications in education, as it will surely appeal to kids. A child who wants to learn about lions, for example, could ask LaMDA to pretend to be a lion. Either way, LaMDA is sure to have a big impact on conversational AI and Google Assistant.