Google’s NotebookLM Aims to Be the Ultimate Writing Assistant | EUROtoday
Steven Johnson has written 13 books, on matters starting from a London cholera outbreak to the worth of video video games. He’s been a tv presenter and a podcast host. He’s a keynote speaker who doesn’t should name himself that in his LinkedIn profile. And for over a yr now, he’s been a full-time worker of Google, a standing that’s clear when he badges me into the search big’s Chelsea places of work in New York to point out me what his staff has been creating.
It’s known as NotebookLM, and the simplest manner to think about it’s as an AI collaborator with entry to all of your supplies that sits in your metaphorical shoulder to information you thru your mission. NotebookLM was soft-launched to a choose group earlier this yr however is now accessible to all as an “experiment”—that’s Google’s low-risk strategy to see how the app behaves and the way we behave with the app.
Johnson discovered his strategy to Google by means of a lifelong obsession with software program as a “a dynamic thought partner,” a device to hurry up and improve the artistic course of. When he was in school he grew to become obsessive about HyperCard, Apple’s software program that broke information into chunks and allowed you to navigate an information-space by means of hyperlinks. It anticipated net navigation earlier than the online existed. “I fought mightily to turn HyperCard into that dream tool, but it wasn’t quite ready,” he says. He ultimately grew to become an fanatic of Scrivener, a mixture phrase processor and mission organizer in style with e-book authors. (I’m a fan too.)
When Johnson acquired entry to OpenAI’s GPT-3 textual content generator in 2021, he acknowledged that AI may stage up a brand new era of thought instruments. Oh, wait, he mentioned to himself, this factor that has at all times been behind my thoughts is now going to be doable. Scenarios unthinkable even a yr earlier than had been all of a sudden on the desk. Johnson didn’t but know that Google not solely had comparable giant language fashions, however was already engaged on a mission very a lot consistent with his considering. In May 2022, a small staff within the experimental Google Labs division cold-emailed Johnson. They arrange a gathering by way of Starline, a Google Labs mission that enables for eerily intimate in-person conferences. “I basically had a conversation with a hologram who said, ‘You know, this thing you’ve been chasing your whole life? We can finally build it,’” Johnson says. He grew to become a part-time adviser to the small staff, at first sharing the workflow of an expert author. “Here’s four or five engineers, here’s an actual author, let’s just watch him,” is how Google Labs head Josh Woodward sums up the method. Eventually Johnson acquired concerned within the growth of the product itself and was sucked in to the purpose of accepting a full-time gig. His title at Google Labs is editorial director.
NotebookLM, initially known as Project Tailwind, begins by creating an information set of your supply materials, which you drag into the device from Google Docs or the clipboard. After the app has digested all of it, you may then ask NotebookLM questions on your materials, because of Google’s giant language mannequin know-how—partly powered by its just-released improve Gemini. The solutions replicate not solely what’s in your supply materials but additionally the broader normal understanding of the world that Gemini has. A essential function is that each reply to your queries comes with a set of citations reporting the place precisely the data got here from, so customers can examine the accuracy of its output.
Google is just not the one firm envisioning merchandise that permit individuals create customized knowledge units to discover with LLMs. At OpenAI’s developer day final month, the corporate launched personalised mini-GPTs that may be tuned to a selected activity. Woodward acknowledges a “core similarity.” But he argues that NotebookLM focuses extra on enhancing a workflow, and is geared to offer superior accuracy in its outputs. Also, he says that the OpenAI merchandise have extra of a character, whereas NotebookLM is designed to don’t have any such pretensions.