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Sam Altman throws shade on Google’s ‘aesthetics’

Sam Altman isn’t afraid to stir things up a bit in the AI ​​race, and his latest message was aimed at Google.

OpenAI announced its new flagship AI model, GPT-4o, which “can reason about audio, vision, and text in real time.” A day later, Google announced various updates to its AI models, including a new AI agent called “Project Astra” and the future of Google Search.

But instead of going after Google’s AI offerings, Altman threw some shade at Google’s aesthetic. The CEO posted a side-by-side image to X, formerly Twitter, of the OpenAI event with Google I/O next to it.

“I try not to think too much about competitors, but I can’t help but think about the aesthetic difference between OpenAI and Google,” he wrote.

On the left, OpenAI researchers sit on a couch in dim lighting and test the new GPT-4o in a vaguely mid-century modern office. To the right, Google’s vast exterior stage almost looks like a movie set. The image shows a small crowd in front of a well-lit stage with fake windows and clouds, and Google’s famous rainbow colors on the wall behind.

Altman’s point is clear: OpenAI’s event feels sleeker and more intimate, while Google feels like a full-scale production.

The general structure and style of the two events also differed. Google’s event lasted nearly two hours and featured music looper Marc Rebillet, of TikTok and YouTube fame, warming up the crowd with the help of AI. That of OpenAI lasted less than 30 minutes and was held in its offices.

Musician Marc Rebillet is on stage at Google IO 2024.

Musician Marc Rebillet, famous on TikTok and YouTube, on stage at Google I/O 2024.


Google I/O hosted more than a half-dozen speakers, including CEO Sundar Pichai, who opened the event and spoke again during the closing. Meanwhile, OpenAI only had a few speakers and Sam Altman never appeared in the livestream.

At least one Google employee was quick to applaud the OpenAI CEO.

Less than two hours after Altman’s post on X, Zachary Nado, whose profile lists him as a research engineer at Google Brain, posted a response. The Googler wrote that, for a CEO who claims not to think much about competitors, it’s “interesting how all your launches are then in sync with ours.”


Of course, it’s also worth noting that Google attempted to have the last laugh 30 minutes before OpenAI’s launch, releasing a video demonstration of Google’s AI agent and its impressive image recognition.

While the Google engineer said he was only “joking” and had a lot of respect for OpenAI researchers, the exchanges highlight the rivalry between the two companies as they battle it out to create the best AI products.

OpenAI may not have announced a search engine at its Monday event, but it is would be creating its own web search product. Meanwhile, Google is improving its Gemini AI suite, which has lagged behind OpenAI’s ChatGPT but has been rapidly gaining market share.


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