Google’s Project Astra is A Conversational AI for the Real World

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Key Takeaways

  • Google has previewed a Project Astra AI helper for the real world.
  • The conversational, responsive AI can identify objects and produce creative prompts just by pointing a phone camera.
  • It's coming to the Gemini app and other products later this year.

Google has previewed Project Astra, a new approach to AI that serves as a companion for real life.

In a presentation at I/O 2024, the company billed Astra as a conversational, highly responsive take on Gemini that can serve both functional and creative tasks.

The demo showed a Pixel user pointing their phone camera at objects to ask straightforward questions, such as finding a sound-making object or identifying code. However, it can also handle creative prompts such as making an alliteration based on what the camera sees.

It can even reference objects off-frame — if you’ve forgotten where your glasses are, Project Astra can remember where it saw the eyewear before. Conveniently, this served as an opportunity to hint at augmented reality glasses that could perform these tasks hands-free.

Astra is expected to come to the Gemini app and other Google products later this year. While the demo was on a Pixel, it’s not yet clear if the technology will be a staple of the Pixel 9 series.

Google already has visual searching through features like Lens and Circle to Search. Project Astra goes a step further, however. You can now handle more than just basic identification, and even use AI-based recognition as a launching pad for ideas.

The company also characterized this as the “future” of AI assistance. Don’t be surprised if Google makes Astra a central feature before long, rather than a complement to conventional virtual helpers.