Google The company is developing an artificial intelligence-powered mobile chatbot app with interactive digital characters for Gen Z users, CNBC has learned.

However, the company recently “de-prioritized” those efforts in an internal reorganization, according to materials seen by CNBC. Typically, when a product is deprioritized at Google, development on that product stops.

The app, called “Bubble Characters,” offers a collection of talking digital characters that can hold conversations with Gen Z users, according to internal documents seen by CNBC. The company has been working on this since the fourth quarter of 2021.

The app’s description says it has “human-like” conversations, “takes action” and is “fun for Gen Zers.” These conversations are powered by large language models, which are massive datasets for understanding and generating human-like text.

“What started as the stuff of science fiction turned into next-gen human-level conversation,” reads the app’s description.

In one example seen by CNBC, a friendly voice resembling a cartoon character joined the conversation, asking follow-up questions and even offering relationship advice.

The Generation Z chatbot is one of a series of AI projects that have used Google’s large-scale language models over the past few months. In assistant organizations working on virtual assistant apps or two-way conversations on various platforms, executives are prioritizing ChatGPT rival Bard in an internal shakeup that includes the departure of some key executives. According to letters seen by CNBC, some Bubble Characters team members were asked to put work on the Gen Z app on hold in favor of Bard’s release ahead of its release.

Meanwhile, some of Google’s top AI researchers have left the company to start their own chatbot companies, attracting investment in an otherwise slow funding environment. Character.AI, a two-year-old company developing AI companion chatbots led by former Google researchers Noam Shazeer and Daniel De Freitas, raised a $150 million round led by Andreessen Horowitz in February.

Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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