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September 19, 2023updated 20 Sep 2023 9:20am

Google Bard updates add extensions and ‘boost performance’

The chatbot will now be able to search across popular apps including YouTube and those in the Workspace productivity suite.

By Ryan Morrison

Google has upgraded its AI chatbot platform Bard to add extensions and boost the performance of the underlying foundation model. Built on top of its PaLM AI model, Bard now has the ability to search across other Google apps including YouTube and its Workspace productivity suite

Google says its new model isn't trained on data in Workspace apps such as Docs and Gmail (Photo: Google)
Google says its new model isn’t trained on data in Workspace apps such as Docs and Gmail (Photo via Google)

Bard was launched in March as an experiment following the runaway success of ChatGPT from Microsoft-backed OpenAI. It is one of a number of chatbot platforms that can be used to generate natural language responses and answer questions. 

Like ChatGPT, Google has continually upgraded Bard with new features, but the product remains experimental. The latest update has been described as the “most capable model yet”, building on feedback from users and adding more language support.

Google says its new model is more intuitive, imaginative and responsive than previous versions and can provide more depth in its output. It can also generate code, cover a range of topics and do so with greater levels of accuracy.  

“We believe in rapid iteration and bringing the best of Bard to the world,” a Google statement said. “Your feedback has helped unlock the most capable version of Bard yet for stronger collaboration in languages and countries all over the world.”

Google gives Bard new extensions

The addition of extensions gives Bard real-time data access beyond simple search. For example, it can use data from Maps to plot a path to a hotel when asked about a holiday and show a YouTube video of your destination. Extensions covering Maps, YouTube, Flights and Hotels are enabled by default, whereas Workspace is disabled until turned on.

Providing Bard access to Workspace will allow it to interact with information from Gmail, Docs and Drive. This will allow it to summarise emails, answer questions across personal content and act as a personal assistant. Data from Workspace is not used to train Bard’s public model but is used in your own instance of the AI model.

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Collaboration has also been enabled in the new version, mirroring similar features added to ChatGPT in recent weeks. “Just about everything we do in life involves a bit of gathering information and planning,” Google said in an update. “Bard makes it easy to work together across even more sources, so you can keep your ideas moving forwards.”

The collaboration comes in the form of a shared link to the conversation, similar to the way a Google Doc can be shared for collaboration. Once shared that conversation is added to your account and can be used to build on what was started by the previous creator.

More language support and the ability to modify responses to be more professional, creative or simplistic has also been added. “Having the option to modify responses to better meet your needs gives you more control over your creative process,” Google’s statement explained.

Read more: CMA outlines principles for selling AI models

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