Google launches Bard to rival ChatGPT as AI chatbot race takes off

US company will allow trusted testers access to new service, with plans to make it widely available to public in coming weeks

Sundar Pichai, chief executive of Alphabet. EPA
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Alphabet-owned Google launched a new conversational artificial intelligence service called “Bard” on Monday, that will compete with rival ChatGPT, an AI service created by OpenAI.

The service aims to create innovative ways to engage with information, from language and images to videos and audio.

It will use the information from the web to offer new, high-quality responses, Google said.

The California-based company said it would allow “trusted testers” access to the new service in the beginning. It plans to make it widely available to the public in coming weeks.

Bard seeks to combine the breadth of the world’s knowledge with the power, intelligence and creativity of our large language models
Sundar Pichai, chief executive of Alphabet

Bard is powered by Language Model for Dialogue Applications (LaMDA) technology that was unveiled by the company nearly two years ago.

AI-led LaMDA comes with next-generation language and conversation ability, the company said.

Generative AI includes algorithms (such as latest chatbot ChatGPT) that are capable of creating new content, including text, videos, audios, software codes and images.

Recent new breakthroughs in the field could drastically change the way we approach content creation, according to a latest report from McKinsey & Company.

“Bard seeks to combine the breadth of the world’s knowledge with the power, intelligence and creativity of our large language models,” Google chief executive Sundar Pichai said.

“Bard can be an outlet for creativity, and a launchpad for curiosity, helping you to explain new discoveries from Nasa’s James Webb Space Telescope to a nine-year-old, or learn more about the best strikers in football right now, and then get drills to build your skills."

Google has released Bard with its lightweight model version of LaMDA that requires less computing power.

It will eventually help the company to reach more users and gather more feedback.

The company said it would combine the external feedback with its internal testing to ensure Bard’s responses met a “high bar for quality, safety, and groundedness in real-world information”.

“We’re excited for this phase of testing to help us continue to learn and improve Bard’s quality and speed,” Mr Pichai said.

The competition in the field of generative AI is heavy.

San Francisco-based OpenAI’s AI-based chatbot called ChatGPT has been creating a stir across the internet with its writing ability and responses to requests.

ChatGPT is a programme that comes up with human-like responses to prompts in seconds, based on information publicly available on the internet.

The programme has become hugely popular since its launch in December, while also raising concerns about what it is used for and its accuracy.

Alphabet is already using AI to improve the results of Google Search for billions of people.

“Soon, you will see AI-powered features in Search that distill complex information and multiple perspectives into easy-to-digest formats," Mr Pichai said.

"So you can quickly understand the big picture and learn more from the web … whether that’s seeking out additional perspectives, like blogs from people … or going deeper on a related topic, like steps to get started as a beginner."

Google said it is also important to make AI “easy, safe and scalable” for others.

From March, the technology company will start bringing in individual developers, creators and enterprises so they can test its generative language application programming interface, or API, initially powered by LaMDA with a range of models to follow.

API is a software intermediary that allows two different applications to connect or communicate with each other.

“Over time, we intend to create a suite of tools and APIs that will make it easy for others to build more innovative applications with AI,” Mr Pichai said.

"Having the necessary compute power to build reliable and trustworthy AI systems is also crucial to start-ups."

Explainer: What is ChatGPT and why are academics concerned?

Explainer: What is ChatGPT and why are academics concerned?

Last week, Alphabet reported lower-than-expected quarterly revenue in the fourth quarter of 2022 as its digital advertising business struggled under an economic slowdown that has choked corporate spending and caused mass layoffs.

The company’s revenue surged 1 per cent to over $76 billion while its net income dropped 34 per cent annually to $13.6 billion in three months to December 31.

Last month, the US Department of Justice and eight states filed an anti-trust lawsuit against Google, alleging it monopolised the country's $279 billion digital advertising market to stifle competition and boost its profit.

The company has also announced it will lay off 12,000 of its nearly 190,000 employees, about 6 per cent of the total workforce, after a review across its product areas and functions.

Updated: February 07, 2023, 7:21 AM