Google parent Alphabet (GOOG, GOOGL) isn’t letting Microsoft (MSFT) steal all of the limelight when it comes to AI. The company on Monday announced that it’s opening up its own ChatGPT competitor Bard to a set of trusted users ahead of a public debut in the coming weeks. The move comes just two weeks after Microsoft announced its multi-year, multi-billion dollar investment in ChatGPT developer OpenAI.
Google’s Bard is a conversational AI service powered by Alphabet’s Language Model for Dialogue Applications (LaMDA). The software is meant to provide users with AI-powered responses to their queries that sound as though they were written by another human.
One example Google provided in a press statement was asking “What kind of new discoveries from the James Webb Space Telescope can I tell my 9 year old about?” The program then offers responses like “The telescope captured images of galaxies that are over 13 billion years old.”
Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai said that the company is initially releasing a “lightweight model version of LaMDA” that will require less computing power and allow for more feedback from users.
“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,” Pichai said. “We’re excited for this phase of testing to help us continue to learn and improve Bard’s quality and speed.”
While a ChatGPT competitor is certainly intriguing, it’s how Google will eventually wrap the technology into Google Search that’s more interesting. Speculation has swirled about how Microsoft could leverage its investment in OpenAI to bring ChatGPT’s capabilities to its Bing search engine as a means to muscle in on Google’s 93% market share in the global search engine market.
The idea would be to make Bing’s responses more natural, rather than simply providing links or quick answers without much context. Seemingly sensing the threat, which Google reportedly referred to as a “Code Red,” the company is working on rolling out its own natural language search feature.
Pichai points to a search query for someone asking Google whether it’s easier to learn to play the guitar or piano. Normally search engines wouldn’t be able to provide insight into that kind of subjective question, but with its AI enhancements, the CEO says Google search will soon be able to do just that.
“Soon, you’ll see AI-powered features in Search that distill complex information and multiple perspectives into easy-to-digest formats, 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 who play both piano and guitar, or going deeper on a related topic, like steps to get started as a beginner. These new AI features will begin rolling out on Google Search soon,” he said.
The race is on to see which company will be able to capture and hold consumers’ attention. And it could upend the search market as we know it.