Google Bard – a competitor to ChatGPT that will be available to try in the coming weeks

The popularity of ChatGPT, which recently grew to 100 million users, forced Google to speed up its work on a competitor called Bard.

Google CEO Sundar Pichai announced the project on the company’s blog, describing it as an “experimental conversational AI service” that will respond to user requests and participate in conversations. According to Pichai, Bard will initially be open to a group of “trusted testers” before becoming “available to the public in the coming weeks.”

It’s not yet clear exactly what capabilities Bard will have, but it looks like the chatbot will offer the same capabilities as OpenAI’s ChatGPT. A screenshot demonstrated by Google shows that users will be able to ask Bard practical questions, such as how to plan a children’s party or what dishes can be made from a certain list of ingredients.

According to Pichai’s words, “Bard can be an outlet for creativity, and a launchpad for curiosity, helping you to explain new discoveries from NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope to a 9-year-old, or learn more about the best strikers in football right now, and then get drills to build your skills.”

Pichai also notes that Bard “draws on information from the web to provide fresh, high-quality responses” suggesting that it will be able to answer questions about recent events, something that ChatGPT doesn’t always do.

Hasty announcement and lack of information about Bard are clear signs of “code red” announced by Google after the launch of ChatGPT last year. Although the technology behind ChatGPT is not revolutionary, OpenAI’s decision to make the system freely available on the Internet has given millions of people access to this new form of automated text generation. The implications have been surprising, with discussions of ChatGPT’s impact on education, employment, and – of particular interest to Google – the future of internet search.

Microsoft, which has invested billions of dollars in OpenAI, also took advantage of the moment. The company plans to integrate ChatGPT into its Bing search engine as well as other products in its office suite. Screenshots purporting to show Bing with ChatGPT support leaked online just last week.

While Google has deep expertise in the artificial intelligence that underpins ChatGPT (in fact, it invented the key technology – the transformer that is the letter “T” in GPT), the company still takes a more cautious approach to making its tools available to the public. Previously, Google created LaMDA, the language model that underlies Bard, available through the AI Test Kitchen app. But this version is extremely limited, it can only generate text related to several queries.

Google, like other tech giants, is wary of a backlash against untested AI. Large language models such as LaMDA and GPT-3.5 (which ChatGPT runs on) have a well-documented tendency to spew toxic content such as hate speech and confidently assert false information, so much so that one professor compared such systems to “shit generators” – hardly flattering description for a technology that some believe should replace search engines.

The upcoming launch of Bard marks a change in Google’s approach to this technology. In his blog, Pichai emphasizes that Google will combine “external feedback with our own internal testing to make sure Bard’s responses meet a high bar for quality, safety and groundedness in real-world information” – but the system is unlikely to avoid mistakes, including serious ones.

Meanwhile, Google also emphasizes that it is already building artificial intelligence into its products, apparently the search engine. Over the past few years, the company has been using AI to aggregate more and more of its search results, displaying information from sites instead of letting users click on them and explore on their own. Pichai’s post suggests that these features will become more prominent in the future:

“Soon, you’ll see AI-powered features in Search that distill complex information and multiple perspectives into easy-to-digest formats, so you can quickly understand the big picture and learn more from the web: whether that’s seeking out additional perspectives, like blogs from people who play both piano and guitar, or going deeper on a related topic, like steps to get started as a beginner. These new AI features will begin rolling out on Google Search soon.”

Google is also scheduled to hold a closed-door media event today to focus on AI, search and more. So, there should be more details about what the company plans to offer users with the Bard launch and when it will be available to try.

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