I tested Opera's new Gemini-powered AI capabilities and came away impressed

My favorite browser is beefing up its AI feature with the help of Google's Gemini AI models. Here's why you should give it a try.
Written by Jack Wallen, Contributing Writer
Opera Aria drawing an image.

Aria's take on a cat and mouse playing chess.

Jack Wallen/ZDNET

My favorite browser, Opera, has an AI feature called Aria for a while now. On the rare occasion that I need AI assistance (for research/search purposes), I always turn to Aria. To that end, Opera's AI has been pretty fantastic.

Recently, however, Opera announced it will begin adding Google's Gemini AI models to help power its Aria. That doesn't mean Opera intends to replace the LLM (Large Language Model) Aria currently uses. In fact, Aria uses multiple AI models to respond to queries (choosing the model it feels will work best for the query at hand). Aria will now also have access to Google Gemini, which consists of several models (from Gemini Nano to Gemini Ultra).

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This new integration isn't just about being able to respond more quickly and accurately to queries. Users will also find Opera's Aria AI now includes new features, such as the ability to read responses out loud. It's also capable of rendering images based on queries, thanks to the Imagen 2 model on Vertex AI. 

Opera has also introduced an AI Feature Drops program. According to Krystian Kolondra, EVP at Opera, "AI is moving fast and so are we. We've started the AI Feature Drops Program to allow people to test our newest AI explorations that either will or won't make it to the official version of Opera One. We are excited to let our most engaged users test and share their feedback and suggestions with us."

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I downloaded the Opera Developer edition some time ago and, soon after the announcement, the update was made available. I applied the update and kicked the tires of the new Aria AI and came away impressed.

One thing to keep in mind is that both the speech and image features have been available on Opera's developer desktop version since late April. The difference is that both features are more reliable and considerably faster, thanks to the addition of Google's LLMs. On top of that, before adopting Google's AI models, the text-to-speech in Aria was not exactly conversion-like. 

Let's dig in.

Text to speech

The first feature I tested was text-to-speech. To use it, you run a query in Aria. When the query completes, hover your cursor near the top right corner of the response to reveal a menu that includes a small speaker icon. Click that icon and the AI voice will start reading the response. To my surprise, the voice sounded fairly realistic. Yes, I could tell it was AI at times (especially when it came to less common names) but overall the sound had a natural pitch, timber, and cadence (far better than Google's Assitant voice).

Opera's Aria defining Linux.

I asked Aria to explain Linux.

Jack Wallen/ZDNET

You can't change the voice or the rate at which it speaks, but you can pause it (by hitting the pause button). This feature is available on both the desktop and mobile versions of Opera (Developer on the desktop and Beta on Android).

Image generation

The only changes to Aria's image generation (since the Gemini adoption) are in its speed and reliability. Prior to Gemini, I tested the image capability and found that it sometimes couldn't handle the query and would respond with an error. Try again and it might succeed. With the help of Imagen 2 on Vertex AI, image generation never fails. 

Did I fail to mention that image generation is also free with Aria?

At the moment, the image generation feature is only available to the desktop version (Developer) and not the mobile version. 

If you're keen on AI, I would highly recommend you give Opera Developer and Aria a try. From my experience, Opera's take on AI is the best of all web browsers (and it's not even close). 

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