Google is girding for a battle of wits in the field of artificial intelligence with “Bard,” a conversational service aimed at countering the popularity of the ChatGPT tool backed by Microsoft.
Bard initially will be available exclusively to a group of “trusted testers” before being widely released later this year, according to a Monday blog post from Google CEO Sundar Pichai.
Google’s chatbot is supposed to be able to explain complex subjects such as outer space discoveries in terms simple enough for a child to understand. It also claims the service will also perform other more mundane tasks, such as providing tips for planning a party, or lunch ideas based on what food is left in a refrigerator. Pichai didn’t say in his post whether Bard will be able to write prose in the vein of William Shakespeare, the playwright who apparently inspired the service’s name.
“Bard can be an outlet for creativity, and a launchpad for curiosity,” Pichai wrote.
Google announced Bard’s existence less than two weeks after Microsoft disclosed it’s pouring billions of dollars into OpenAI, the San Francisco-based maker of ChatGPT and other tools that can write readable text and generate new images.
Microsoft’s decision to up the ante on a $1 billion investment that it previously made in OpenAI in 2019 intensified the pressure on Google to demonstrate that it will be able to keep pace in a field of technology that many analysts believe will be as transformational as personal computers, the internet and smartphones have been in various stages over the past 40 years.
In a report last week, CNBC said a team of Google engineers working on artificial intelligence technology “has been asked to prioritize working on a response to ChatGPT.” Bard had been a service being developed under a project called “Atlas,” as part of Google’s “code red” effort to counter the success of ChatGPT, which has attracted tens of millions of users since its general release late last year, while also raising concerns in schools about its ability to write entire essays for students.
Pichai has been emphasizing the importance of artificial intelligence for the past six years, with one of the most visible byproducts materializing in 2021 as part of a system called “Language Model for Dialogue Applications,” or LaMDA, which will be used to power Bard.
Google also plans to begin incorporating LaMDA and other artificial intelligence advancements into its dominant search engine to provide more helpful answers to the increasingly complicated questions being posed by its billion of users. Without providing a specific timeline, Pichai indicated the artificial intelligence tools will be deployed in Google’s search in the near future.
In another sign of Google’s deepening commitment to the field, Google announced last week that it is investing in and partnering with Anthropic, an AI startup led by some former leaders at OpenAI. Anthropic has also built its own AI chatbot named Claude and has a mission centered on AI safety.