Google’s Assistant reorganization follows Bard launch, memo says


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

stephen | 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 to employees on Wednesday, titled “Changes to the Assistant and Bard teams,” Sissie Hsiao, vice president and business unit head of Google Assistant, announced changes to the organization that show the unit giving the priority to Bard.

Jianchang “JC” Mao, who reported directly to Hsiao, will leave the company for personal reasons, according to the memo, which was viewed by CNBC. Mao served as vice president of engineering for Google Assistant and “helped shape the assistant we have today,” Hsiao wrote.

In Mao’s place, 16-year Google veteran Peeyush Ranjan recently served as vice president of Google’s sales organization, overseeing payments.

“As the Bard teams continue this work, we want to ensure that we continue to support and execute on future opportunities,” Hsiao said in the email. “This year, more than ever, we have focused on delivering with impact to our users.”

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

The new leadership changes suggest that the Assistant organization may consider incorporating Bard technology into similar products in the future.

Google last week launched its competitor ChatGPT Bard to the public, calling it “an experiment”, beginning with testing in the US and UK after CNBC reported the product testing in January. CNBC previously reported that the company brought in team members from various areas of 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 says. Trevor Strohman, who previously led engineering efforts for Bard, will continue as Area Tech Lead for Bard, reporting to Hsiao.

However, there is still a big question regarding how technology can be used to generate revenue.

Executives have hinted at using it as a search product, but Bard officials have recently tried to downplay that use case for employees, even as the company struggles to address Microsoft Bing Chat-GPT integration.

Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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