Only a year ago the main use of AI image generators seemed to be to create mashups and pastiches of artistic styles, but we're increasingly seeing text-to-image tech being put to intriguing practical uses. The latest example is a new development withing Google's AI Search Generative Experiment (SGE).
The tech giant is experimenting with using AI image generation to let Google Search users create images of that perfect product that only exists in their mind – and then search the net for the nearest real thing. It could just change the way we shop.
Google's new tool might sound strange at first, but it could actually serve a very practical purpose. Say you've imagined for yourself the perfect winter coat in an unsual out-of-season colour - or perhaps you've even seen someone wearing the kind of coat you would like, but you don't know the brand that makes it or where to find it.
Type out a description of the unknown or entirely fictional product, and Google's SGE will generate an image of it using the kind of text-to-image tech we're now familiar with. You can use that AI-generated creation to perform an image search to look for similar real products on the web.
Google says it thinks the tool will be helpful for users who have a "very specific vision in mind. We'll have to see how well it works in practice – it seems like it would be most useful if we are able to make tweaks to the initial generation in order to get an image that looks as close as possible to the product we imagine.
It's another example of the direction that Google and also OpenAI (the developer of DALL-E and ChatGPT) have been going in, bringing generative text and image AI together for more conversational AI tools that aim to be more specific and allow users to go deeper to solve practical problems. Google SGE is also expanding its AI features with product category suggestions and tools for virtually trying on clothes.
Google SGE is only available in the search giant's test platform Google Labs for now, but new feature is expected to roll out to US users of the Google Android and iOS app from December. For more on AI image generation, see our pick of the best AI art tutorials.