Google announced the release of Bard, a conversational chatbot, on Monday, setting up an artificial intelligence showdown with Microsoft, which has invested billions in the creators of ChatGPT, the massively popular language app that convincingly mimics human writing.
ChatGPT, developed by the San Francisco-based company OpenAI, has caused a stir with its ability to write essays, poems, or programming code on demand in seconds, sparking widespread fears of cheating or the extinction of entire professions.
Microsoft announced last month that it was backing OpenAI and has begun to integrate ChatGPT features into its Teams platform, with expectations that it will adapt the app to its Office suite and Bing search engine.
The potential inclusion in Bing turned the focus on Google and speculation that the company’s world-dominating search engine could face unprecedented competition from an AI-powered rival.
Google parent Alphabet’s disappointing earnings last week added to the pressure to act. In a recent announcement, the company said it was laying off 12,000 workers in order to focus more on AI projects.
Another sign that Google and Microsoft are competing head-to-head over generative AI, Google’s announcement came just ahead of Microsoft’s AI-related launch.
It has the potential to change the competitive dynamic for search and information much like the rise of the internet sank the networking giants before it (AOL, CompuServe, etc.) said independent tech analyst Rob Enderle.
As the world’s most popular search engine, Google has largely relied on its popularity to survive. This could change that, relegating them to history.
Google’s Bard is based on LaMDA, the firm’s Language Model for Dialogue Applications system, and has been in development for several years.
“Bard seeks to combine the breadth of the world’s knowledge with the power, intelligence, and creativity of our large language models,” Pichai said.
“It draws on information from the web to provide fresh, high-quality responses,” he added, hinting that the app would give up-to-date responses, something ChatGPT is unable to do.
Reputational risk fear
It had been Google’s intention to launch its own AI platform, but it was reluctant to do so because of the reputational risk of releasing unready technology.
Researchers have demonstrated that Bard or ChatGPT can spew out nonsense or misinformation on a massive scale using the same language models.
Facebook-owner Meta in November was forced to take down the release of its own large language model called Galactica after three days when users shared its biased and incorrect results on social media within hours of its release.
‘High bar for quality’
Bard’s responses will “meet a high bar of quality, safety, and grounding in real world information,” said Pichai.
And much like ChatGPT, Bard would source its responses from a limited version of its base language model in order to reduce computing power and reach a wider audience.
Crucially for its looming duel with Microsoft, Google also said that users would soon see AI-powered features in its search engine.
New-style responses would “distill complex information and multiple perspectives into easy-to-digest formats,” Pichai said.
Search engines beefed up by generative AI “will give structured answers to questions and no longer links,” Thierry Poibeau, of the CNRS research centre in Paris, told AFP.
But bots like ChatGPT “also give wrong answers, which is annoying for a search engine,” said Poibeau.