AI Overviews Are All Over Google, but What Are They and Where Did They Come From?

AI Overviews are coming to your search results, but you can turn them off if you don't want them.


May 15 2024, Published 12:51 p.m. ET

Google Search Labs homepage.
Source: Google

For decades, Google has been the default place for people who want to look something up online. Their search algorithm directs users to webpages that have the answers they're looking for. Now, though, amid a revolution in AI technology, it seems that Google is trying to cut out the middleman.

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Many users have noticed that Google search results now frequently turn up an AI Overview summary before any actual links, and they want to better understand what that means. Here's what we know about the AI Overview, and why the feature exists.

The menu screen for Google's AI Overview tool.
Source: Google
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What is the AI Overview feature on Google?

The AI Overview feature in Google essentially incorporates Google's AI tool Gemini into Google search results. The company has been experimenting with the tool for some time, and rolled it out to certain audiences as a beta feature in March 2024. Now, the tool is being made available to users across the platform in the U.S., and Google says it has plans to roll it out in other countries as well.

AI Overview is essentially an AI generated response to whatever question a person might have typed into Google. The AI is pulling from information across the internet in order to provide an answer that gives users the information they need without having to click through a webpage. You won't see these Overviews on every question, but Google says that it has added them to complex queries where it feels that the AI can be helpful in guiding users toward an answer.

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What is Google's Project Astra?

In addition to its AI Overview feature attached to search, Google is also planning to rollout Project Astra, an even more comprehensive AI that gives users a chance to ask questions about anything they see or hear. Astra can use image and sound recognition in addition to text in order to answer questions, and is designed to be the next step in what AI chatbots could look like once they move out of the text-based realm.

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Astra is being described as multimodal AI, because it's an AI that reacts to many different inputs and can handle prompts from the world around it. It's a technology that some are undoubtedly fascinated by, but one that some others are disturbed or even just annoyed by.

Here's how to turn off AI Overviews on Google.

If you don't want to see AI Overviews on any of your searches, there is a way to turn the feature off. If you're using Google Chrome, open a new tab and click on the beaker in the upper right hand corner that is called "Search Labs." Make sure that you are logged into your Google account when you do this.

From there, you should see a toggle at the top of the page that allows you to turn the Overviews on or off. If you turn them off, you should see results the way they used to display, and if you leave it on, you'll see Overviews attached to some search results.

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