How to get access to Google’s Bard AI chatbot and what you need to know

The ChatGPT competitor is now available to some users in the US and the UK

Google chief executive Sundar Pichai said Google aims to be an 'AI-first' company. Reuters
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Bard has shaken off that disastrous live demo.

A little more than a month after Google's generative artificial intelligence bot made a factual error in its debut demonstration, wiping $100 billion off parent company Alphabet's market value in a single day, Bard is now available to some users in the US and the UK.

How does the chatbot work?

Bard is Google's competitor to Microsoft's Bing Chat and OpenAI's ChatGPT.

The bot is built on the neural network LaMDA, which stands for language model for dialogue applications and is based on 1.56 trillion words from public forums and other websites.

LaMDA is an AI system Google started developing in 2015, around the time Alphabet and Google chief executive Sundar Pichai declared a strategy shift to becoming an “AI-first” company.

It can offer conversational responses to complex or open-ended questions.

For example, users can ask Bard to give them tips for how to prepare for a job interview, explain complex scientific concepts in simple terms, draft an invitation for a party or write an outline for a school paper.

“We really see it as this creative collaborator,” says Jack Krawczyk, a senior product director at Google, as reported by MIT Technology Review.

How do I gain access to Bard?

Bard is initially available to some customers in the US and the UK. Users can join the waiting list here.

Google said it would be expanding Bard “over time to more countries and languages” but did not specify a timetable, and framed the launch of Bard as “an experiment”.

How is Bard different from ChatGPT?

User beware.

Google offers many disclaimers with Bard, including that it may make mistakes or “give inaccurate or inappropriate responses”.

OpenAI had a similar warning for ChatGPT, saying it was “still is not fully reliable” and prone to stating incorrect facts, making reasoning errors and displaying bias.

Bard's system is very limited in citing its sources, so there is no way of knowing where it is getting its answers from.

ChatGPT and Bing Chat perform a bit better on this, offering limited information on how they generate answers.

Bard gives real-time answers to queries. ChatGPT and Bing rely on data that stops in 2021.

In an internal email seen by CNBC, Mr Pichai told employees that the success of Bard depended on wide-scale public testing.

“As more people start to use Bard and test its capabilities, they’ll surprise us. Things will go wrong,” Mr Pichai wrote.

“But the user feedback is critical to improving the product and the underlying technology.”

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How much will it cost?

For now, Bard is free.

Google has a long track record of offering its apps at zero cost to users because the company primarily makes its money from selling advertising.

In a world with generative AI, where web users can get answers immediately from conversational bots, the future of the search engine — and advertising revenue — is up in the air.

For now, Google is positioning Bard as a “complement” to search, Platformer reported.

The service is connected to Google Search, and there is a “Google it” button underneath every response from Bard.

By contrast, ChatGPT sells subscriptions to its service at $20 a month.

Updated: March 22, 2023, 9:06 AM