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What is Project Astra? Google’s AI assistant of the future explained

Announced during Google I/O 2024, Project Astra is the latest AI-focused project from the tech giant. 

Read on to find out more about Project Astra, what it will be able to do and when the AI assistant should be available to try.

What is Project Astra?

Coined by Google as a “universal AI agent that is helpful in everyday life,” Project Astra is essentially an AI assistant, built on Google’s Gemini models, created to process multimodal information and respond naturally both conversationally and in real-time. 

Google explains that getting an AI’s response time down to something conversational is “a difficult engineering challenge”, so it’s been working to improve how its models “perceive, reason and converse to make the pace and quality of interaction feel more natural.”

Google has seemingly achieved this by leveraging its leading speech models and enhancing how AI agents sound by giving them a wider range of intonations. 

What can Project Astra do?

Google has provided a few impressive demos of the capabilities of Project Astra. One demo shows Project Astra running through a phone’s camera and responding naturally and quickly to the user’s prompts. Here, Astra was able to correctly identify a speaker in view when prompted to “tell me when you see something that makes sound.” 

In the same video, which was shot in one-take, the user shows Astra code on a computer screen and asks “what does that part of the code do” to which Astra explains correctly. When Astra is shown the view from a window facing outside and asked “what neighbourhood do you think I’m in,” Asta is able to both recognise the area and provide information about it.

Astra is also able to be more creative and provide answers to prompts such as “give me a band name” and “give me a creative alliteration based on these [crayons].”

When will Project Astra be available?

Project Astra is still under development but Google has said that some of its capabilities “are coming to Google products, like the Gemini app and web experience, later this year.” 

Google has also said that “it’s easy to envision a future where people could have an expert AI assistant by their side, through a phone or glasses” suggesting there could well be a pair of Gemini-enabled smart glasses available some time in the future.

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