Google trials its own AI chatbot Bard after success of ChatGPT

Google is releasing its own artificial intelligence chatbot, called Bard, as it responds to the huge success of the Microsoft-backed ChatGPT.

The company is also adding the technology behind Bard to the Google search engine to enable complex queries – such as whether the guitar or piano is easier to learn – to be distilled into digestible answers.

Bard will be released to specialist product testers on Monday and will then be made more widely available to the public in the coming weeks, Google said. Like ChatGPT, Bard is powered by a so-called large language model – in Google’s case called LaMDA.

Large language AI models such as LaMDA and the one behind ChatGPT are types of neural networks, which mimic the underlying architecture of the brain in computer form. They are fed vast amounts of text from the internet in a process that teaches them how to generate responses to text-based prompts.

ChatGPT has become a sensation after its public release in November, creating all kinds of credible content from academic essays to poems and job applications. According to analysts, it has already reached 100 million users.

Google’s announcement of its Bard AI chatbot. Photograph: Google

Sundar Pichai, Google’s chief executive, emphasised Bard’s ability to deliver responses based on up-to-date information. Google’s announcement contained an example of Bard answering a query about how to explain new discoveries made by Nasa’s James Webb space telescope to a nine-year-old, as well as learning about the best strikers in football “right now” while getting training drills to emulate top players.

“Bard seeks to combine the breadth of the world’s knowledge with the power, intelligence and creativity of our large language models,” said Pichai. “It draws on information from the web to provide fresh, high-quality responses.”

Google also said its latest AI technologies – such as LaMDA, PaLM, image generator Imagen and music creator MusicLM – would be integrated into its search engine. Pichai said new AI-powered features in its search engine would distill complex information and multiple perspectives into “easy-to-digest” formats.

Pichai used the example of asking Google which is the easier instrument to learn between a guitar and a piano, with Google then releasing an example of a conversation-style response to that query – instead of a link to a single blog post.

The response is shown at the top of the search page, stating: “some say the piano is easier to learn, as the finger and hand movements are more natural, and learning and memorizing notes can be easier. Others say that it’s easier to learn chords on the guitar and you could pick up a strumming pattern in a couple of hours.”

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An answer to a Google search query powered by the Bard chatbox. Photograph: Google

The company will also make the technology behind LaMDA available to developers, creators and businesses, with a view to building apps powered by Google’s AI technology.

LaMDA became a talking point about the potential power of AI last year when a Google engineer went public with claims that it was “sentient”. Google said Blake Lemoine’s claims about LaMDA – an acronym for “language model for dialogue applications” – were “wholly unfounded” and fired him.

Google’s announcement came as Microsoft, a key backer of ChatGPT, prepares to launch more products using the technology behind the chatbot. ChatGPT was developed by San Francisco-based OpenAI, which recently received a multibillion-dollar investment from Microsoft.

Over the weekend users of Microsoft’s Bing search engine claimed to have seen a preview of the product in which they could ask it questions of up to 1,000 characters, with the answers also citing sources. Microsoft is set to announce more details about using ChatGPT in its products at a news conference on Tuesday.

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Dan Milmo Global technology editor