Google unleashes fightback against ChatGPT, a Bard by any other name

On Monday, Google unveiled an AI chatbot, Bard, that will be integrated into its search engine soon in the face of rising competition from Microsoft’s Bing and OpenAI’s ChatGPT.

Talk of Microsoft revamping its search engine Bing with a massive investment in OpenAI’s upcoming large language model GPT-4 has kicked Google into building its own rival service.

Large language models have rapidly improved and are better at generating text, summarizing knowledge, and answering questions. They aren’t perfect, however, and can still produce toxic and false information. But folks are fascinated and drawn to the new technology and a recent report from analysts at UBS claimed ChatGPT had reached 100 million monthly users to become the fastest-growing internet app in history. 

Will users suddenly turn their backs on Google and flock to Bing if Microsoft juices up web search with an even more powerful language model? This remains to be seen, but it’s clear the times they are a-changin’ in AI and search.

Google dominates in the search market, and uses its power to reap billions in online advertising – Alphabet’s largest source of revenue. As Microsoft threatens to eat into these profits, Google has had to come up with its own answer for AI-powered search, and quickly. 

“Two years ago we unveiled next-generation language and conversation capabilities powered by our Language Model for Dialogue Applications (or LaMDA for short),” CEO Sundar Pichai said in a blog post. “We’ve been working on an experimental conversational AI service, powered by LaMDA, that we’re calling Bard.”

Pichai said Bard processes information from the internet to generate output responses for input user queries. Bard can, for example, do things like explain new discoveries from NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope to children, provide up-to-date information on the best strikers in football and come up with training exercises to help people improve their health.

Bard looks like it rivals ChatGPT’s ability to be conversational but appears to be more focused on search and explainability rather than being a general language model capable of writing poems or essays. A preview snippet of Bard in action shows the model generates responses in bullet points.

Google believes language models can extract information more efficiently from the internet, making it easier for people to find what they are looking for directly without having to scan through multiple websites.

“When people think of Google, they often think of turning to us for quick factual answers, like ‘how many keys does a piano have?’ But increasingly, people are turning to Google for deeper insights and understanding — like, “is the piano or guitar easier to learn, and how much practice does each need?” Learning about a topic like this can take a lot of effort to figure out what you really need to know, and people often want to explore a diverse range of opinions or perspectives,” Pichai explained. 

Bard will be launched to the public in the coming weeks, and will initially be powered with a smaller model version of LaMDA. Google has released it to a select group of users for testing, and will be assessing the model’s safety and quality of responses.

Google also said it is going to start getting developers and businesses onboard to start using Generative Language API, which will consist of a range of language models based on its LaMDA system like OpenAI’s GPT-3 based models. 

Meanwhile, Microsoft is expected to reveal more about how Bing hopes to make a search comeback with AI in an upcoming private in-person event tomorrow, according to The Verge. Google, however, will reportedly unveil new AI-powered products and features in a public livestream presentation on Wednesday. ®



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