Google releases ChatGPT rival AI ‘Bard’ to early testers

Google said on Feb 6 that its new conversational AI service, called Bard, would be opening up to trusted testers, and that it is readying the service for the public “in the coming weeks”. — AFP

Alphabet Inc’s Google is getting its ChatGPT competitor ready for prime time.

The company said on Feb 6 that its new conversational AI service, called Bard, would be opening up to trusted testers, and that it is readying the service for the public “in the coming weeks”. The technology aims to generate detailed answers when given simple prompts, such as what to make for lunch or how to plan a friend’s baby shower.

“We’ll 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,” Alphabet chief executive officer Sundar Pichai said in a blog post announcing the news. “We’re excited for this phase of testing to help us continue to learn and improve Bard’s quality and speed.”

Google’s release of Bard comes as the company is facing challenges to its flagship search business, which drives most of its revenue. Last week, Alphabet reported sales that missed expectations amid a digital ad slowdown and investor anxiety that wildly popular AI rivals, like Open AI’s ChatGPT, could upend search. Last year, the company declared a “code red” in response to ChatGPT’s release – a move akin to pulling a fire alarm internally, which sent the company’s AI engineers scrambling for a response.

Bard will be powered by LaMDA, a large language model developed by Google that stirred controversy in May when a Google software engineer publicly asserted that the AI was “sentient” – a claim that has since come under scrutiny. The testers Google selected for early access are a geographically diverse group of people outside of the company who will help it improve and understand how regular users will encounter the AI service in real life, a Google spokesperson said.

Pichai has sought to emphasise the company’s progress in artificial intelligence amid heightened competitive pressure from other big tech peers. Microsoft Corp, which announced it is investing US$10bil (RM42.94bil) into OpenAI, announced it is holding an event on Tuesday at its company headquarters after Google made its announcement Monday. The software maker has been working on integrating ChatGPT into its Bing search engine to challenge Google’s search dominance, a person familiar with the matter said last month.

In addition to the release of Bard, Google will allow developers to tap into its language models to create their own applications. The company will begin opening up its Generative Language API to companies, developers and creators next month, Pichai said.

“Beyond our own products, we think it’s important to make it easy, safe, and scalable for others to benefit from these advances by building on top of our best models,” Pichai wrote in the blog post.

Pichai touted the release of the company’s large language models in an earnings call last week. He added that users will soon be able to use language models “as a companion to search.”

Last week, Google announced a partnership with the artificial intelligence startup Anthropic, which is testing its own chatbot to rival ChatGPT. Google has also invested close to US$400mil (RM1.71bil) in the startup, according to a person familiar with the matter. The deal gives Google a stake in Anthropic, but doesn’t require the startup to spend the funds buying cloud services from Google, Bloomberg earlier reported. – Bloomberg

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