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Google Search SGE AI hallucinations might change how I shop

Published Nov 17th, 2023 10:21AM EST
Google Search SGE is available via a Search Labs waitlist.
Image: Google

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Imagery is one of Google’s key focuses for its AI products. I’m not a fan of Google’s decision to take its magic editor to extremes, allowing Pixel users to create memories that never happened. That defeats the purpose of capturing key moments in our lives. Those photos do not have to be perfect as long as they’re genuine.

But when it comes to images generated from scratch, that’s another topic altogether. We’ve all seen amazing AI images from products like Midjourney and Dall-E. Now, Google is about to take it to a whole new level with its AI-centric Google SGE online search product.

Based on your input, Google will show you images of products that do not exist.

That might seem like a dumb idea at first. Of course, you won’t be able to find those products anywhere. But that’s not the purpose of these hallucinated products. SGE will let you describe the kind of product you want to buy, create a mockup image of that product, and then find something as close as possible to it.

Google announced the new Google SGE feature right in time for the holiday shopping season. With so many deals to take advantage of online, it might be incredibly difficult to navigate all of them. Or to find the products you want for a discounted price.

Imagining clothing items that do not exist is brilliant

Google SGE’s hallucinations can really come in handy in some cases — if you have access to Google SGE, that is. They’ll be especially useful for generating images of clothing items you might be looking for. Maybe you have the general idea of a coat for the winter season, complete with materials and styling. All you need to do is tell Google SGE, and it’ll deliver photorealistic imagery.

Here’s Google’s winter coat example:

Let’s say you want a new winter coat — a colorful, patterned puffer jacket — but you haven’t found quite what you’re looking for. With generative AI in Search, just look for that style and tap ‘Generate images’ to see photorealistic images that match your vision. And if you want to make an adjustment, like if you’d prefer a colorful metallic jacket instead of a patterned one, just enter that refinement in the text box to see a new set of images. Once you’ve found one you like, scroll down to see similar shoppable products.

That last phrase describes the brilliance behind this Google SGE feature. Google doesn’t let you imagine clothing items that don’t exist just for the sake of giving you a fun experience. Google looks at the generated AI image you’re happy with and then tries to find a real product that looks similar.

How Google Search SGE will hallucinate clothes that don't actually exist.
How Google Search SGE will hallucinate clothes that don’t actually exist. Image source: Google

The animation above gives you an idea of the Google SGE experience while imagining products that don’t exist based on your query.

The reason Google is putting hallucinations to good use in Google SGE has to do with the way shoppers look for items online. Google has learned that apparel shoppers “often have a very specific vision in mind.” Some 20% of people will search for clothes online using five or more words.

I won’t lie, this is one generative AI feature I never thought I needed. But I can’t wait to try it myself. This might change how I shop for clothes.

The Google SGE feature targets clothes shopping. But it might work with other products. You’ll have to try it out and see if it can offer similar results. The feature will be available in the US in December, therefore, after Black Friday. It can still be useful for Christmas shopping. Speaking of gifts…

AI-generated gift ideas

While we’re talking about clothes, Google also updated its SGE search AI product to expand support for virtually trying clothes. Men can now try tops in Google Search on mobile devices, with the feature coming soon to desktop Google SGE experiences. The feature will only be available in the US initially, however.

Men can try clothes virtually via Google Search SGE.
Men can try clothes virtually via Google Search SGE. Image source: Google

You won’t be shopping only for yourself this holiday season. And if you’re always having difficulty finding gift ideas for your loved ones, Google SGE can help. Just tell the app what sort of gift you want to buy, with specifics about the recipient. Google SGE might surface better ideas than what you might come up with yourself.

Here are a couple of examples Google offers about shopping with specific interests in mind:

With generative AI, you can really hone in on your gift recipient’s unique preferences. If you’re looking for ‘great gifts for home cooks who love pasta,’ for instance, you can get more specific options that are sure to bring a smile to their face (and stomach). Or say your loved one has a more niche interest, like a 7-year-old who wants to be an inventor. With this experience, you can get creative, specific, shoppable ideas — from chemistry sets to coding kits — and become a world-class gift-giver in no time.

Come to think of it, you don’t need Google’s AI, any generative AI program should offer similar results. You could do it in ChatGPT. The advantage of Google SGE is that it’s already connected to the live web.

Google says SGE will put links front and center so you can visit websites and find out more details about gifts. Unlike the Google SGE hallucinations, support for gift ideas is available in the Google app on Android and iPhone and inside Chrome on computers.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.