Google’s NotebookLM is now an even smarter assistant and better fact-checker

Google is updating its NotebookLM writing assistant with improved performance and new features, among other things. It now runs on the company’s Gemini 1.5 Pro model, the same AI that powers the Gemini Advanced chatbot. 

Thanks to this functionality, the assistant is more contextually aware, allowing you to ask “questions about [the] images, charts, and diagrams in your source” in order to gain a better understanding. 

Although Gemini 1.5 Pro is part of NotebookLM, it's unknown if this means the AI will accept longer text prompts or create more detailed answers. After all, Google's AI can handle context windows of up to a million tokens. We reached out to the tech giant to ask if people can expect to see support for bigger prompts.

Prompts will mostly stay the same, although they’ll now provide inline citations in the form of encircled numbers. Clicking on one of these citations takes you directly to supporting passages inside source documents. That way, you can double-check the material to see if NotebookLM got things right. 

AI hallucinations continue to be a problem for the tech, so it’s important that people are able to fact-check outputs. When it comes to images, opening the citation causes the source picture to appear in a small window next to the text.


(Image credit: Google)

Upgraded sourcing

Support for information sources is expanding to now include “Google Slides and web URLs” alongside PDFs, text files, and Google Docs. A new feature called Notebook Guide is being added, too. What this does is give you the opportunity to rearrange the data you enter into a specific format like a series of FAQs or a Study Guide. It could be quite handy.

The Guide sees other changes being made, though they’re not included in the initial announcement. For instance, you can have up to 50 different sources per project, and each one can be up to 500,000 words long, according to TheVerge. Prior to this, users could only have five sources at once, so it’s a big step up. 

Raiza Martin, who is a senior product manager at Google Labs, also told the publication that “NotebookLM is a closed system.” This means the AI won’t perform any web searches beyond what you, the user, give it in a prompt. Every response it generates pertains only to the information it has on hand.

NotebookLM’s latest update is live now and is rolling out to “over 200 countries and territories around the world.” You can head over to the AI’s official website to try out the new features. But, do keep in mind that NotebookLM is still considered to be experimental and you may run into some quirks. TheVerge, for instance, claimed the URL source function didn’t work in their demo. However, in our experience, the tool worked just fine.

Be sure to check out TechRadar's list of the best business laptops for 2024, if you plan on using the assistant at work.

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Google’s AI-powered NotebookLM is now available to help organize your life

Google’s AI-powered writing assistant, NotebookLM, is leaving its experimental phase behind and launching as an official service with multiple performance upgrades.

First revealed during I/O 2023 as Project Tailwind, the tool’s primary purpose is to help organize your messy notes by creating a summary detailing what you wrote down. It will even highlight important topics plus come up with several questions to help people gain a better understanding of the material. The big update coinciding with the release is that NotebookLM will now run on Gemini Pro, which the tech giant states is their “best [AI] model” for handling a wide variety of tasks. It claims the AI model will enhance the service’s reasoning skills as well as improve its ability to understand the documents it scans.

What’s more, Google took the feedback from NotebookLM’s five-month testing period and has added 15 new features aiming to improve the user experience. 

Highlight features

The company highlights five specific features in its announcement with the first one being a “new noteboard space”. In this area, you’ll be able to take quotes from the AI chat or excerpts from your notes and pin them at the top for easier viewing. Next, citations in a response will take you directly to the source, “letting you see [a] quote in its original context.”

Highlighting text in said source will now suggest two separate actions. You can have the AI instantly “summarize the text” into a separate note or ask it to define words or phrases, which can be helpful if the topic is full of tough concepts. Down at the bottom, users will see a wider array of follow-up actions from suggestions on how to improve your prose to related ideas that you can add to your writing. NotebookLM will also recommend specific formats for your content that’ll shape it into an email layout or the outline of a script among other things.

NotebookLM sample

(Image credit: Future)

The full list can be found on Google's Help website. Other notable features include an increased word count for sources (they can now be 200,000 words total), the ability to share notebooks with others much like Google Docs, and support for PDFs.

Coming soon

There are more updates on the way. Starting on the week of December 11, NotebookLM will gain an additional seven features. They include a Critique function where you can ask the AI for constructive feedback plus a way to combine all your notes into one big page.

NotebookLM is available in the United States only to users ages 18 and up on desktop and mobile devices. When you visit, you’ll see some examples to help you get started with the service. It’s worth mentioning that despite this being an official launch, Google still regards NotebookLM as “experimental” technology, so it won’t be perfect. No word on if there are plans for an international release although we did ask. This story will be updated at a later time. 

While we have you check out Techradar's roundup of the best AI writers for 2023.

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