Google’s AI chatbot goes personal tapping into Gmail

These so-called Bard Extensions would also be available to retrieve key points from content across Google Docs and Google Drive, including PDFs, the company said. — AFP Relaxnews

Google on Sept 19 said it had integrated Gmail, YouTube and other tools into its Bard chatbot as the tech giants seek to persuade users that generative AI is useful and not dangerous or just a fad.

The search engine juggernaut has for years discreetly developed AI powers, but was caught off guard when OpenAI late last year released ChatGPT and teamed up with Microsoft to make its capabilities available to users worldwide.

Google then raced out its own Bard chatbot earlier this year, making it available in more than 40 languages and overcoming data privacy concerns from regulators in Europe.

The company said its beefed up chatbot would allow users to carry out new tasks such as summarise a confusing string of emails into its main points or tap into Google Maps to find the best way to a holiday destination.

These so-called Bard Extensions would also be available to retrieve key points from content across Google Docs and Google Drive, including PDFs, the company said.

The new powers would also help expose incorrect answers with a new button that would compare Bard output with the results of a Google search query on the same topic, flagging discrepancies.

This would hopefully give comfort to those put off by the so-called "hallucinations" or bad responses that are a constant danger when using Bard, ChatGPT or Microsoft's Bing.

Bard's new capabilities closely match offerings from Microsoft that infuse its Office 365 apps with AI powers, though those come at an extra cost to customers and are not available through the Bing chatbot.

To assuage privacy concerns, a pop-up on the Bard webpage said the new powers would only access personal data “with your permission”.

Any scraping of personal content from Google's workplace tools – such as Docs, Drive or Gmail – would not be used to target ads, train Bard, or be seen by human reviewers, it said.

"You’re always in control of your privacy settings when deciding how you want to use these extensions, and you can turn them off at any time," the company said in a blog post.

The new product comes as the staying power of generative AI chatbots is yet to be confirmed, with usage of ChatGPT trending lower over the past several months, according to industry data.

Moreover, the integration of the Bing chatbot into Microsoft's search engine earlier this year failed to make an impact on Google's overwhelming dominance of search.

Governments and tech companies however insist that generative AI is technology's next big chapter and have ramped up spending on new products, research and infrastructure. – AFP Relaxnews

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