Google opens ChatGPT rival Bard for testing: WSJ

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LAS VEGAS: Google is rolling out a new conversational artificial-intelligence service to a select set of testers and plans a broader public launch in the coming weeks, according to The Wall Street Journal.

This is part of the company’s effort to play catch-up with challengers such as OpenAI, creator of the popular chatbot ChatGPT.

The new experimental service, called Bard, generates textual responses to questions posed by users, based on information drawn from the web, Sundar Pichai, Chief Executive Officer of Google parent Alphabet, said in a blog post published Monday.

In that post, Pichai also shared a glimpse of new search engine features that will use AI to answer user queries, and said it would open up some of its AI programmes to outside developers, WSJ said.

Google’s new products come amid a flurry of announcements by rival Microsoft about its use of AI technologies developed by OpenAI. Microsoft said last month it is making a multiyear, multibillion-dollar investment in the San Francisco AI startup.

It said it would be opening up its tools for developers to build upon, and integrating them into services such as its Bing search engine — raising the spectre of a new challenge to Google Search’s market power.

According to WSJ, Microsoft says it is planning an event on Tuesday to announce “progress on a few exciting projects,” which are widely expected to include a chatbot-infused version of Bing. Sam Altman, chief executive of OpenAI, on Monday tweeted a picture of himself next to Microsoft Chief Executive Satya Nadella, saying “excited for the event tomorrow.”

Microsoft’s announcements have led to complaints from investors that Google hasn’t moved quickly enough to release its in-house AI tools, despite being the pioneer of some of the technologies used to build tools such as ChatGPT.

Those complaints have been echoed by some of its own researchers, The Wall Street Journal has reported.

In response, Google executives have recently sped up work to review and release artificial-intelligence programmes to the general public, while also assigning teams of engineers to work on new ways to integrate new developments into areas such as the core search experience, the Journal reported.

Google executives have also suggested they haven’t been slow so much as careful with their tools, drawing an implicit contrast to competitors tools, such as ChatGPT, that can spout made-up information in response to some user queries, WSJ said, adding that Google executives say they must test new tools to make sure they don’t show bias, and guard against misuse, concerns shared by many academics.

“It’s critical that we bring experiences rooted in these models to the world in a bold and responsible way,” Pichai in his blog post on Monday. “That’s why we’re committed to developing AI responsibly.” He added that the new external testing period for Bard will be combined with internal research to make sure that it gives responses that meet Google’s “high bar for quality, safety and groundedness in real-world information.”

Pichai said in a separate internal email seen by The Wall Street Journal that Google’s entire staff will get access to Bard next week in order to give feedback as part of a “company-wide dogfood,” or tech-industry slang for testing or using one’s own products.

Google is under the spotlight of regulators in the European Union, US and other parts of the globe. In the EU, policymakers are considering a new AI law that could require companies to conduct risk assessments before launching new tools

Google says its Bard service is based on its experimental artificial-intelligence programme called LaMDA, which stands for Language Model for Dialogue Applications, according to WSJ. Google last year suspended an engineer who contended that LaMDA had become sentient — a claim roundly rejected by scientists in the field.

When OpenAI released ChatGPT late last year, it took off as a viral sensation. (ANI)

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