Google announces Bard, its answer to AI chatbot phenomenon ChatGPT

Google has announced plans to release its own artificial intelligence chat tool, spurred no doubt by the global headline-making success of the Microsoft-backed ChatGPT which was publicly released by OpenAI only two months ago.

And immediately experts are asking how will Google use personal details to power its chat tool?

In addition the development has initiated the “space race” of the AI chatbots.

Google says its chatbot, ambitiously called Bard (“the bard”, of course, is the nickname of great poet and playwright William Shakespeare) was on Monday released to specialist testers and will become available to the public in  coming weeks and months.

Like ChatGPT, Bard is powered by a large language model (LLM). LLMs are deep learning algorithms that can recognise, summarise, translate, predict and generate content, such as text or images, based on knowledge it takes from huge amounts of data.

Read more: ChatGPT is making waves, but what do AI chat tools mean for the future of writing?

The LLM on which Bard is based are LaMDA and PaLM. LaMDA shot to prominence last year when a Google employee claimed the software had achieved sentience.

Sundar Pichai, the chief executive of Google’s owner, Alphabet, said in a press conference on Thursday that the chatbot technology would be integrated into the company’s famous search engine as part of the rollout.

“Very soon, people will be able to interact directly with our newest, most powerful language models as a companion to search in experimental and innovative ways,” he said.

In a blog post, Pichai says that Google, synonymous with that very 21st century feeling of wanting a quick factual answer to a question, will use AI to provide “deeper insights and understanding.”

“AI can be helpful in these moments, synthesizing insights for questions where there’s no one right answer. 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,” Pichai explains.

Of course, competition begets competition and only minutes after Google’s announcement, Microsoft released a statement that it would detail later in the week how its $AUD14.5 billion investment in OpenAI would be used to implement ChatGPT into Microsoft’s own search engine Bing.

Professor Toby Walsh, chief scientist of the AI Institute at the University of New South Wales, told the ABC that AI may see “the beginning of a new type of search where we don’t just get sent links to what we want to find, but we may even get the answers to the questions directly.”

“It’s still not going to be perfect, but I’m sure it’s going to evolve to be better,” he said.

ChatGPT has already led to ethical concerns being raised about artificial intelligence chatbots and their potential misuse, for example by students who use them to write entire essays or assignments rather than do the work themselves.

Read more: ChatGPT banned in some schools, but many experts say it can improve education

Walsh warns that Google’s chatbot, too, will be subject to scrutiny, and of perhaps a much more sinister character.

Much of our personal information already goes through search engines to third parties for marketing. People may be prone to sharing even more with “conversational” AI-based search tools.

He says that tech companies are “going to be looking at that information thinking, ‘Who is this information valuable to? Who can we sell it to?’”

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