Google’s AI Gemini, formerly Bard: How the generative AI chatbot works, how to access and use it

For over two decades, Google has made strides to insert AI into its suite of products. The tech giant is now making moves to establish itself as a leader in the emergent generative AI space.

Google is no stranger to the technology. Back in the 2000s, the company said it applied machine learning techniques to Google Search to correct users’ spelling and used them to create services like Google Translate.

Then, in the following decade, Google acquired DeepMind, at the time a little-known AI research company. It also introduced TensorFlow, an open-source machine learning framework that developers have used to build models with capabilities like image and speech recognition, natural language processing, and predictive analytics.

The company doubled down on its strategy in 2016 when CEO Sundar Pichai declared that Google would be an “AI-first company.” Years later, that’s set Google up for the generative AI wars, where it’s now duking it out with competitors like OpenAI and Microsoft to make the best products in the sector.

It released Bard, its first AI chatbot, in early 2022, though it later folded that into its family of large language models that it calls Gemini.

“Every technology shift is an opportunity to advance scientific discovery, accelerate human progress, and improve lives,” Google’s CEO wrote in December 2023. “I believe the transition we are seeing right now with AI will be the most profound in our lifetimes, far bigger than the shift to mobile or to the web before it.”

But what, exactly, do Google’s latest AI tools do? And how do they compare to rivals like ChatGPT? Business Insider compiled a Q&A that answers everything you may wonder about Google’s generative AI efforts.

Google didn’t respond to a request for comment from BI before publication.

What is Google’s Gemini?

Gemini can be used for a variety of tasks.

Screenshot of Google’s Gemini/BI



Gemini is the name of Google’s family of large language models. The search giant claims they are more powerful than GPT-4, which underlies OpenAI’s ChatGPT.

Launched in December 2023, Gemini is multimodal, meaning it can recognize and understand text, image, audio, video, and code to generate human-like responses. Google claims the model can help with writing, brainstorming, and learning, among other tasks. That’s because Gemini is trained on troves of public data, including “publicly available” Google Docs, and, soon, Reddit posts.

The model comes in three sizes that vary based on the amount of data used to train them. From smallest to largest, they include Nano, Pro, and Ultra. Gemini 1.5 Pro, Google’s most advanced model to date, is now available on Vertex AI, the company’s platform for developers to build machine learning software, according to the company.

CEO Pichai says it’s “one of the biggest science and engineering efforts we’ve undertaken as a company.”

How do I access Gemini?

Gemini is coming for Google’s Pixel 8 smartphone.

ED JONES/AFP via Getty Images



Users are required to make a Gmail account and be at least 18 years old to access Gemini.

Web users can access the generative AI tool at gemini.google.com. Smartphone users can download the Google Gemini app for Android or the Google app with built-in AI capabilities for the iPhone. Those who own the tech company’s Pixel 8 can expect to see Gemini Nano, the smallest version of the model, on their phones after the next feature drop that could arrive in June 2024.

Users can interact with Gemini’s 1.0 Pro model for free. But for $19.99 a month, users can access Gemini Advanced, a version the company claims is “far more capable at reasoning, following, instructions, coding, and creative inspiration” than the free one.

Paid users can access Gemini in Google’s workspace apps like Gmail, Google Docs, and Google Sheets.

Users can also incorporate Gemini Advanced into Google Meet calls and use it to create background images or use translated captions for calls involving a language barrier.

How do I use Gemini?

Google has restricted Gemini from answering certain types of questions.

Screenshot of Google’s Gemini/BI



Using Gemini is relatively straightforward.

Simply type in text prompts like “Brainstorm ways to make a dish more delicious” or “Generate an image of a solar eclipse” in the dialogue box, and the model will respond accordingly within seconds. You can also talk directly to Gemini using your voice.

Another way to use it is to insert images and have the AI identify specific objects and locations.

But don’t expect the chatbot’s outputs to be perfect. In February 2024, Google paused Gemini’s image generation tool after people criticized it for spitting out historically inaccurate photos of US presidents. The company also restricted its AI chatbot from answering questions about the 2024 US presidential election to curb the spread of fake news and misinformation. And, in general, Gemini has guardrails that prevent it from answering questions it deems unsafe.

Google Gemini vs ChatGPT which is better?

Google’s Gemini and OpenAI’s ChatGPT have their own strengths and weaknesses.

Getty Images



The question of whether Gemini is actually more capable than ChatGPT is up for debate.

Overall, it appears to perform better than GPT-4, the LLM behind ChatGPT, according to Hugging Face’s chatbot arena board, which AI researchers use to gauge the model’s capabilities, as of the spring of 2024.

One possible reason: ChatGPT’s knowledge cut-off date is April 2023, whereas Gemini draws from the most recent information on Google in real time.

A chatbot test Business Insider did in 2023 illustrates Gemini’s seemingly superior capabilities. When comparing ChatGPT’s responses with Gemini’s, BI found that Google’s model had an edge at responding to queries regarding current events, identifying AI-generated images, and meal planning. ChatGPT, however, spat out more conversational responses, making interacting with the AI feel more enjoyable and human-like.

What happened to Bard?

Bard is now part of Gemini.

NurPhoto / Contributor/Getty Images



Bard was the name of Google’s first AI chatbot, which the company folded into Gemini. Its reason: to “reflect the advanced tech at its core.”

After all, Bard’s rollout in 2023 wasn’t smooth sailing. Google employees criticized its public release for being “rushed” — an issue that doomed the discontinued Google Glass — and “botched” after the AI chatbot spit out incorrect information during its inaugural demo. John Hennessy, the chairman of Alphabet, Google’s parent company, agreed, saying that the AI wasn’t “really ready” yet.

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Aaron Mok