Google opened early access to its artificial intelligence (AI) chatbot named Bard on 21 March, in what has been described as an attempt at reducing the lead that Microsoft has taken in the AI race with OpenAI’s ChatGPT.
“We’re starting to open access to Bard, an early experiment that lets you collaborate with generative AI. We’re beginning with the US and the UK, and will expand to more countries and languages over time,” Google said in an official blog post.
In an example of what Bard can do, Google noted that the blog post itself was written with the help of the AI chatbot.
“You can use Bard to boost your productivity, accelerate your ideas and fuel your curiosity. You might ask Bard to give you tips to reach your goal of reading more books this year, explain quantum physics in simple terms or spark your creativity by outlining a blog post. We’ve learned a lot so far by testing Bard, and the next critical step in improving it is to get feedback from more people,” wrote Google vice-presidents Sissie Hsiao and Eli Collins in the blog.
Users in the UK and the US will be able to gain early access to Bard by joining a waitlist on Google’s Bard site.
More about Google Bard and what it aims to do
Opened to testers in February
Google unveiled Bard on 6 February, by which time ChatGPT and its alternatives had already led to an increased reliance on AI for queries as diverse as generating poems to writing code and producing art.
Writing in an official blog at the time, Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google and Alphabet, said that Bard will be opened “to trusted testers ahead of making it more widely available to the public in the coming weeks.”
Bard is built on a large language model developed by Google. Known as Language Model for Dialogue Applications (LaMDA), the model was in the news in 2022 when a Google engineer claimed it had gained sentience. The claims were criticised by the AI community.
“Bard seeks to combine the breadth of the world’s knowledge with the power, intelligence and creativity of our large language models,” wrote Pichai, adding, “ It draws on information from the web to provide fresh, high-quality responses.”
“We’re releasing it initially with our lightweight model version of LaMDA. This much smaller model requires significantly less computing power, enabling us to scale to more users, allowing for more feedback,” wrote Pichai.
External feedback will be combined with Google’s own internal tests to “make sure Bard’s responses meet a high bar for quality, safety and groundedness in real-world information.”
Bard blunder costs Alphabet USD 100 billion in market value
A day after the much-hyped announcement of the AI chatbot by Pichai, Google was in a bit of a bother when Reuters reported about a mistake in the information shared by Bard in its very first promotional video.
The video showed an example of how Bard would respond to a user’s query.
“What new discoveries from the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) can I tell my 9-year old about?” reads the prompt.
Among the number of answers it gave, Bard said that the JWST was used to take the very first pictures of a planet outside the Earth’s solar system, or exoplanets.
But as confirmed by NASA, the first pictures of exoplanets were taken by the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) in 2004.
The revelation came just before an event by Google in Paris to demonstrate Bard’s capabilities. The discovery of the error led to a loss of around USD 100 billion in Alphabet’s market value.
Why is Google’s rapidly moving ahead with Bard?
According to CNBC, Google’s 6 February announcement about Bard followed a recent all-hands meeting where the company’s AI chief, Jeff Dean, told employees that Google is moving “more conservatively than a small startup” because there is much more “reputational risk” in providing wrong information.
Google employees also reportedly raised concerns over the company’s competitive edge in AI in the light of the popularity that ChatGPT garnered in less than two months since its launch on 30 November.
The success of ChatGPT has led experts to speculate that Google’s core business – its search engine – could be under serious threat for the first time in decades.
The New York Times reported in December 2022 that the release of ChatGPT led Google’s management to declare a “code red” primarily for its search business.
Paul Buchheit, one of the creators of Gmail, had in a tweet in December 2022 said, “Google may be only a year or two away from total disruption.”
Buchheit added that Google cannot even fully deploy an AI similar to ChatGPT “without destroying the most valuable part of their business!”
Google may be only a year or two away from total disruption. AI will eliminate the Search Engine Result Page, which is where they make most of their money.
Even if they catch up on AI, they can’t fully deploy it without destroying the most valuable part of their business! https://t.co/jtq25LXdkj
— Paul Buchheit (@paultoo) December 1, 2022
Microsoft’s future plans with OpenAI and ChatGPT
Meanwhile, Microsoft, which has invested into OpenAI on two previous occasions, confirmed in late January that it would be making “a multiyear, multibillion-dollar investment” into the company which is rumoured to be a figure of around USD 10 billion.
Microsoft has also announced that ChatGPT will be incorporated into its Azure OpenAI Service. Some media reports have speculated that Microsoft might also add ChatGPT to its search engine Bing.
(Main image: Solen Feyissa/Unsplash; Featured image: Google)