Google launches Bard, its competitor in the AI Chatbot race
For more than three months, Google executives watched as projects by Microsoft and a San Francisco startup called OpenAI fuel the public imagination with the potential of artificial intelligence.
But on Tuesday, Google tentatively left the sidelines by releasing a chatbot called Bard. The new AI chatbot will be available to a limited number of users in the United States and Britain and will welcome additional users, countries and languages over time, Google executives said in an interview.
The cautious rollout is the company’s first public effort to address the recent chatbot craze sparked by OpenAI and Microsoft, and it aims to demonstrate that Google is capable of delivering similar technology. But Google is taking a much more circumspect approach than its rivals, who have been criticized for proliferating unpredictable and sometimes unreliable technology.
Still, the release represents an important step in warding off a threat to Google’s most lucrative business, its search engine. Many in the tech industry believe that Google – more than any other big tech company – has a lot to lose and gain from AI, which could help a line of Google products become more useful, but could also help other companies to reduce the huge Internet search business. A chatbot can instantly produce answers in full sentences that don’t require people to scroll through a list of results like a search engine would.
Google launched Bard as a full-fledged web page rather than a component of its search engine, beginning a delicate dance of embracing new AI while preserving one of the industry’s most profitable businesses. technological.
“It’s important that Google starts playing in this space because that’s where the world is heading,” said Adrian Aoun, former director of special projects at Google. But the shift to chatbots could help disrupt an ad-driven business model, said Aoun, who is now the chief executive of healthcare startup Forward.
In late November, San Francisco-based startup OpenAI launched ChatGPT, an online chatbot that can answer questions, write essays, and riff on almost any topic. Two months later, the company’s main investor and partner, Microsoft, added a similar chatbot to its internet search engine Bing, showing how the technology could change the market that Google has dominated for more than 20 years.
Google has been rushing to ship AI products since December. He declared a “code red” in response to ChatGPT’s release, making AI the company’s core priority. And it prompted teams within the company, including researchers specializing in the study of AI security, to collaborate to accelerate the approval of a wave of new products.
Industry pundits have wondered how quickly Google can develop new AI technology, especially given the blistering pace of OpenAI and Microsoft in releasing their tools.
“We are at a singular moment,” said Chirag Dekate, an analyst at technology research firm Gartner. ChatGPT has inspired new start-ups, captured the public imagination and sparked greater competition between Google and Microsoft, he said, adding, “Now that market demand has changed, Google’s approach also changed.”
Last week, OpenAI tried to up the ante with a newer technology called GPT-4, which will allow other companies to create the kind of artificial intelligence that powers ChatGPT in a variety of products, including software. business and e-commerce websites.
Google has been testing Bard’s underlying technology since 2015, but has so far not released it beyond a small group of early testers because, like the chatbots offered by OpenAI and Microsoft, it doesn’t always generate reliable information and may show prejudice against women and women. people of color.
“We are well aware of the issues; we need to bring this to market responsibly,” said Eli Collins, Google vice president of research. “At the same time, we see all the excitement in the industry and the excitement of everyone using generative AI”
Mr. Collins and Sissie Hsiao, Google’s vice president for products, said in an interview that the company has yet to figure out a way to make money from Bard.
Google announced last week that AI would be coming to its productivity apps like Docs and Sheets, which businesses pay to use. The underlying technology will also be on sale to companies and software developers who want to build their own chatbots or power new apps.
“It’s the beginning of the technology,” Ms. Hsiao said. “We are exploring how these experiences can show up in different products.”
The recent announcements are the start of Google’s plan to introduce more than 20 AI products and features, The New York Times reported, including a feature called Shopping Try-on and the ability to create background images. custom plans for YouTube videos and Pixel phones.
Rather than being bundled with its search engine, Bard is a standalone web page featuring a question box. At the bottom of an answer, there’s a “Google it” button, which takes users to a new tab with a conventional Google search results page on the topic.
Google executives touted Bard as a creative tool designed to write emails and poems and offer advice on how to engage kids in new hobbies like fly fishing. The company wants to see how people use the technology and will further refine the chatbot based on usage and feedback, executives said. Unlike its search engine, however, Bard was not primarily designed to be a reliable source of information.
“We believe Bard is complementary to Google Search,” Ms. Hsiao said. “We want to be bold in how we innovate with this technology and be responsible.”
Like similar chatbots, Bard is based on what’s called a Large Language Model, or LLM, a kind of AI technology that learns skills by analyzing large amounts of data on the internet. This means the chatbot often gets facts wrong and sometimes invents information without warning – a phenomenon AI researchers call hallucination. The company said it had worked to limit this behavior, but acknowledged that its controls were not entirely effective.
When executives demonstrated the chatbot on Monday, it declined to answer a medical question because it would require accurate and correct information. But the bot also falsely described its source for an answer it generated about the American Revolution.
Google publishes a disclaimer below Bard’s query box warning users that issues may arise: “Bard may display inaccurate or offensive information that does not represent the views of Google.” The company also gives users three answer options for each question and allows them to provide feedback on the usefulness of a particular answer.
Much like Microsoft’s Bing chatbot and similar bots from start-ups like You.com and Perplexity, the chatbot annotates its responses from time to time, so people can revisit its sources. And it harmonizes with Google’s index of all websites, so it can instantly access the latest information posted on the Internet.
This can make the chatbot more accurate in some cases, but not all. Even with access to the latest information online, it still distorts facts and generates misinformation.
“LLMs are tricky,” said Mr. Collins, Google’s vice president of search, referring to the technology that powers today’s chatbots. “Bard is no exception.”
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