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Google Unveils On-Device Generative AI Features for Android Devices


Google’s new artificial intelligence (AI) initiatives and how it intends to incorporate them into its Android platform were made clear at Google I/O 2024. The tech behemoth went into greater detail about on-device AI advancements that app developers will soon have access to during sessions intended for developers. At the moment, it provides on-device and server-based AI capabilities, though Google’s internal apps are the primary users of these. Notably, later this year, the business also revealed an enhanced Google TalkBack service with multimodality, powered by Gemini Nano.


The 19-minute film, “Android on-device AI under the hood,” was released on Google’s Android Developers channel on YouTube. The advantages of keeping AI processing localized within the device and its limitations were covered in the opening of the developer-focused session. Local processing, offline availability, possibly lower latency, and no extra cost are a few of the benefits mentioned. The expenses associated with cloud computing are included here.

While not mentioned in the video, on-device AI is also a good thing for users in terms of privacy. When the computing occurs within the device, the data AI uses to generate content never leaves the device, and cannot be accessed by even Google or a third-party app developer. However, all these benefits come at a cost. The biggest is the limitation of the computational capability of a smartphone-sized device. Despite new chipsets being introduced with neural processing units (NPU) and more powerful GPUs, they cannot compete with the cloud-based infrastructure.

This means the AI features will be limited in what they can do. Highlighting the same, Google classified on-device AI features into three groups Consume, Create, and Classify. Consume includes actions such as summarising a page or providing an overview of an email. Create includes generating text and rephrasing and rewriting them, while Classify includes sentiment analysis and checking the tonality of a message. Notably, Google did not mention any multimodal AI features, likely because powering them locally on the device is not possible at present.

The discussion also included Gemini Nano, which seems to be the company’s top pick for Android’s on-device functionality. The majority of Google’s current on-device AI features, including Gboard smart replies, Summarise in Pixel Recorder, and Magic Compose in Google Message, are all built on Nano, though Gemma was also suggested as a possible substitute. Additionally, the business has announced that later this year, Google Talkback will also receive an upgrade powered by Gemini Nano.

So far, the selection of apps that use on-device AI is limited to Google’s in-house apps. But the company is hoping that through these interactions, it can bring more developers into the foray.

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