Google reorganizes in Assistant after Bard launch, memo says

Google CEO Sundar Pichai speaks on stage during the annual Google I/O developers conference in Mountain View, California, May 8, 2018.

Stephen Lam | Reuters

Google is revamping the reporting structure of its virtual assistant unit — called Assistant — to focus more on Bard, the company’s new artificial intelligence chat technology.

In a memo sent to employees on Wednesday, titled “Changes to the Assistant and Bard team,” Sissie Hsiao, Google Assistant’s vice president and business unit leader, announced the announcement. The changes to the organization show that the unit is very prioritizing Bard.

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Jianchang “JC” Mao, who has reported directly to Hsiao, will be leaving the company for personal reasons, according to the memo seen by CNBC. Mao holds the position of vice president of engineering for the Google Assistant and “helped shape the Assistant we have today,” wrote Hsiao.

Mao’s replacement will be Peeyush Ranjan, a 16-year Google veteran who most recently served as vice president in Google’s commerce organization, which oversees payments.

“As the Bard teams continue this work, we want to make sure we continue to support and execute on the opportunities ahead,” Hsiao said in the email. “This year, more than ever, we’ve focused on delivering that has an impact on our users.”

Google Assistant is an AI-powered virtual assistant software application and language processing software similar to Apple Siri or by Amazon Alexa. Usually in the form of voice recognition, the Assistant is used on mobile and home devices, including Pixel smartphones, as well as in Nest devices and smart speakers. It is also used in smartwatches, smart displays, TVs and in vehicles through the Android Auto platform.

The new leadership changes suggest that the Assistant organization may be planning to integrate Bard technology into similar products in the future.

Last week, Google show Bard, its ChatGPT competitor to the public, calls it “an experiment,” starting with US and UK trials after CNBC report product testing in January. CNBC before report that the company has drawn in team members from various regions around the company to focus on Bard as part of a “code red” effort.

As part of Wednesday’s change, Google Assistant vice president of engineering Amar Subramanya will now lead engineering for the Bard team, the email said. Trevor Strohman, who previously led the engineering efforts for Bard, will continue as “Regional Technology Lead” for Bard, reporting to Hsiao.

However, there is still a big question about how to use this technology to generate revenue.

The CEO has hint when using it as a search product but Bard led recently tried lower that use case for employees even as the company tries to accommodate by Microsoft Bing Chat-GPT integration.

Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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