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What is Bard? A closer look at Google's AI response to 'ChatGPT'

It is being said that ChatGPT will end Google Search as long, essay-style and sometimes elegant answers to a user's questions are being given by conversational AI. This has resulted in a 'code red' at Google, whose core business is search.

February 7, 2023
4 Minutes
minute read

A surge in conversational AI has been sparked by rival OpenAI's ChatGPT, which has achieved widespread success. Google's new AI experiment, Bard, seeks to combine the power, intelligence, and creativity of large language models with the breadth of world knowledge. Not without ambition, Google!

Sundar Pichai, the CEO of Google, announced the model, or service, or AI chatbot, in a blog post. Interestingly, he points out Google's recent focus on AI a number of years ago, as well as the fact that the Transformer was created by the company's research team in 2017.

“It’s a really exciting time to be working on these technologies as we translate deep research and breakthroughs into products that truly help people,” Pichai writes. As I read this, I couldn't help but wonder how Google managed to get leapfrogged by OpenAI, which is now synonymous with the technologies Google pioneered.

The short explanation is that tech moves fast and big companies move slow, and while Google released paper after paper trying to figure out how to fit AI into its existing business strategies, OpenAI has focused on making the best models and letting people figure out their own applications.

For testing purposes, Bard shows Google taking a page from that playbook, releasing a "lightweight" version of the model. Google's own LaMDA (Language Model for Dialogue Applications) is used to power the conversational AI. In the blog post, it is not clear exactly how it accomplishes this, but it seems to stay somewhat current.

Bard “help[s] 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.”

Obviously, Google maintains the most up-to-date record of web content on Earth, and Bard will use that information to its advantage, but exactly how it manages and packages that information for you and your nine-year-old will only be clear once people begin using it.

You can also use Bard to “plan a friend’s baby shower,” “compare two Oscar-nominated movies” and “plan a trip to Ecuador,” according to the post. One can picture how an artificial intelligence model might do any of these things using the various search results and data firehoses Google has access to, but this experiment will likely be limited to telling you stuff, not doing deep integrations with things like your calendar or airlines.

Every conversational AI will face attempts (these days, almost instant) to bait it into saying something hateful, foolish, or embarrassing. The last one is clearly a shot across OpenAI's bow, as well as Microsoft's, since the former's models don't cite their sources and the latter's short-lived Galactica famously invented them. Google will surely record conversations with users "to ensure Bard's responses meet a high bar for quality, safety, and groundedness in real-world information."

Editorial Board
Eric Ng
John Liu
Editorial Board
Bryan Curtis
Adan Harris
Managing Editor
Cathy Hills
Associate Editor

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