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Google launches Bard chatbot in UK and US

Google says the aim is to integrate Bard into its Google Search product in the future and train it on larger AI models once guardrails are in place.

By Ryan Morrison

Google has opened access to its long-awaited chatbot Bard to consumers in the US and the UK through a waitlist. It was previously only accessible to Google employees and a select group of testers. It’s the search giant’s response to the hugely successful ChatGPT from OpenAI and Microsoft’s Bing Search AI tool built on top of OpenAI’s GPT-4 large language model.

Bard is capable of responding to a range of queries and has live information access via Google Search
Bard is capable of responding to a range of queries and has live information access via Google Search. (Screenshot by Tech Monitor)

For now, Bard is available via a separate interface but Google is expected to integrate it into its main search page in a similar way to Microsoft and Bing. It has been described as an experiment for collaboration on generative AI and is branded as such. Bard itself declared at the end of many of its responses while being tested by Tech Monitor: “I am still under development, and I am always learning new things and may make mistakes.”

There were several instances where it made up information, including around its ability to analyse video – generating a fake quote and attributing it to the speaker in a YouTube video it was asked to review. It also struggled with information on other large language models, but Google says it is still in development and warns on every page it may make mistakes.

It was revealed amid a flurry of AI announcements in the past two weeks including Google opening up its massive 530bn-parameter PaLM large language model API to a select group of developers and Microsoft integrating its own ‘Copilot’ AI built on GPT-4 into its Microsoft 365 product range.

Bard is built on top of a lightweight and optimised version of Google’s smaller LaMDA language model but the aim is to update it to more powerful models over time. Google says this is to allow it to test how people interact with the model. “We’re using human feedback and evaluation to improve our systems, and we’ve also built in guardrails, like capping the number of exchanges in a dialogue, to try to keep interactions helpful and on topic,” the company wrote in a blog post.

Google Bard will be upgraded over time

Described as a “complimentary experience to Google Search”, Bard is a direct interface to a large language model in a way that is easier for humans to understand. It is designed so users can visit Search to check responses or explore sources quoted by the AI. After each generated response a list of search terms is displayed and opened in a new tab with relevant results.

“We’ll continue to improve Bard and add capabilities, including coding, more languages and multimodal experiences. And one thing is certain: We’ll learn alongside you as we go. With your feedback, Bard will keep getting better and better,” the company said.

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It has tough competition, coming up against OpenAI’s own ChatGPT which is now powered by GPT-4 and reached over 100 million active monthly users within three months of being launched. It is also competing with other LLM chatbots from the likes of Anthropic with Claude+ and Microsoft with Bing Search AI and the Copilot-powered Business Chat.

Speaking to Reuters, Google product director Jack Krawczyk said the focus was on users rather than the competition. He said Bard was a way to help users in “boosting their productivity, accelerating their ideas, really fuelling their curiosity”.

Unlike ChatGPT, the Google tool is able to show three alternative “draft” responses that it considered before sending the final response. It also generates automatically rather than line-by-line as is the case with Bing and the OpenAI chatbot.

While it can generate code in a handful of programming languages, it doesn’t have the proficiency of ChatGPT and has limited memory of previous conversations. It can also only work in a handful of spoken languages although Google promises this will change as the tool evolves.

Google is encouraging users of the tool to click “thumbs down” on any inaccurate answers or even inaccurate responses such as producing more or fewer lines of text than asked for. “We know the limitations of the technology, and so we want to be very deliberate at the pace at which we roll this out,” said Krawcyzk.

Adnan Masood, chief AI architect at digital transformation company UST told Tech Monitor ChatGPT has “first-mover advantage”, with Google Bard emerging into a crowded market, but one with potential to grow. “With the advent of GPT-4, the fusion of text, images, and other data modalities through multi-modal AI heralds a new dawn of contextual intelligence, empowering businesses to make better-informed decisions and forge stronger connections with their customers. For example, in human resources, AI’s capability to assess resumes, cover letters, and even video interviews enables businesses to identify top talent efficiently,” Adnan said.

“Despite the competition from these alternative AI solutions, an even more significant challenge may arise from Stanford’s Alpaca-style models, which can run on-premises using cost-effective hardware and without the restrictions or safety boundaries associated with more established AI systems,” he said.

Testing the chatbots

Tech Monitor gave each of ChatGPT, Bing, Bard and Claude+, through the Quora chatbot tool Poe the same prompt: Write a one-paragraph summary of the global enterprise technology sector. The responses varied in detail, creativity and length but each gave a good attempt and provided what was asked. For the experiment, we used Bing on its “precise” setting.

All of the responses are from that basic prompt without any further “engineering” to get a more detailed, more specific or more concise response. Some tools like Bard benefit from more detailed requests, whereas GPT-4 is better at understanding sentiment. It isn’t clear whether direct access to Claude+ would have generated a different response as we only had access via Poe. Here are the responses we received:

Bard:

The global enterprise technology sector is a rapidly growing and ever-changing field. It encompasses a wide range of technologies and services that are used by businesses of all sizes to improve efficiency, productivity, and profitability. Some of the key areas of the enterprise technology sector include cloud computing, artificial intelligence, big data, and cybersecurity.

The global enterprise technology sector is expected to continue to grow in the coming years, driven by the increasing adoption of cloud computing, artificial intelligence, and other emerging technologies. As businesses become more reliant on technology, the enterprise technology sector will play an increasingly important role in their success.

GPT-4:

The global enterprise technology sector has experienced significant growth in recent years, driven by rapid digital transformation, increasing adoption of cloud computing, and a relentless focus on data-driven decision-making. This dynamic industry encompasses a wide array of cutting-edge solutions, ranging from artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) to cybersecurity, Internet of Things (IoT), and advanced analytics. As businesses across the world strive to streamline their operations, enhance customer experiences, and maintain competitive advantage, the demand for innovative enterprise technologies continues to surge. The sector has also seen notable consolidation, with major players like Microsoft, Amazon, Google, and IBM expanding their portfolios through strategic acquisitions and partnerships. As technology evolves and regulatory landscapes shift, the enterprise technology sector remains poised to redefine traditional business practices and drive global economic growth.

Claude+ from Anthropic:

The enterprise technology sector continues to grow rapidly as companies seek to become more digital, efficient, and innovative. This includes areas such as cloud computing, big data and analytics, mobility, security, and enterprise software. Major tech companies like Amazon, Microsoft, and Google are providing platforms and services to help other businesses transform themselves. Enterprise spending on technology is in the trillions of dollars annually and still rising. Emerging technologies around artificial intelligence, blockchain, virtual/augmented reality are starting to see increased adoption. At the same time, managing IT infrastructure and integrating new systems remains challenging. Overall, the enterprise technology sector is vibrant, competitive, and crucial for business and economic progress around the world.

Bing:

The global enterprise technology sector is a rapidly growing and changing industry that plays a central role in developing business standards and regulations. Technology continues to be a primary catalyst for change in the world, giving businesses governments, and social-sector institutions more possibilities to lift their productivity, invent and reinvent offerings, and contribute to humanity’s well-being. The tech sector is extending its reach into other industries using digital advancements to support innovation and transformation.

(Homepage image by gguy/Shutterstock)

Read more: UK AI taskforce launch by government to look at foundation models

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