Google to Release ChatGPT Rival Named Bard

FILE - A sign is shown on a Google building at their campus in Mountain View, Calif., Sept. 24, 2019. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu, File)
FILE - A sign is shown on a Google building at their campus in Mountain View, Calif., Sept. 24, 2019. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu, File)
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Google to Release ChatGPT Rival Named Bard

FILE - A sign is shown on a Google building at their campus in Mountain View, Calif., Sept. 24, 2019. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu, File)
FILE - A sign is shown on a Google building at their campus in Mountain View, Calif., Sept. 24, 2019. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu, File)

Google said Monday it will release a conversational chatbot named Bard, setting up an artificial intelligence showdown with Microsoft which has invested billions in the creators of ChatGPT, the hugely popular language app that convincingly mimics human writing.

ChatGPT, created by San Francisco company OpenAI, has caused a sensation for its ability to write essays, poems or programming code on demand within seconds, sparking widespread fears of cheating or of entire professions becoming obsolete, AFP said.

Microsoft announced last month that it was backing OpenAI and has begun to integrate ChatGPT features into its Teams platform, with expectations that it will adapt the app to its Office suite and Bing search engine.

The potential inclusion in Bing turned the focus on Google and speculation that the company's world-dominating search engine could face unprecedented competition from an AI-powered rival.

Media reports said the overnight success of ChatGPT was designated a "code red" threat at Google with founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page -- who left several years ago -- brought back to brainstorm ideas and fast-track a response.

The pressure to act was heightened by the poor earnings posted last week by Google-parent Alphabet, which fell short of investor expectations. The company last month announced that it was laying off 12,000 people as it put more emphasis on AI projects.

Google's announcement came on the eve of an AI-related launch event by Microsoft in yet a further sign that the two tech giants will do battle over the technology, also known as generative AI.

"Generative AI is a game changer and much like the rise of the internet sank the networking giants that came before (AOL, CompuServe etc.) it has the potential to change the competitive dynamic for search and information," said independent tech analyst Rob Enderle.

"Google still largely lives off the fact their search engine is the most widely used, this could change that, relegating them to history," he added.

- 'High-quality responses' -
In his blog post on Monday, Google CEO Sundar Pichai said that Google's Bard conversational AI was to go out for testing with a plan to make it more widely available "in the coming weeks."

Google's Bard is based on LaMDA, the firm's Language Model for Dialogue Applications system, and has been in development for several years.

"Bard seeks to combine the breadth of the world's knowledge with the power, intelligence, and creativity of our large language models," Pichai said.

"It draws on information from the web to provide fresh, high-quality responses," he added, hinting that the app would give up-to-the date responses, something ChatGPT is unable to do.

Before the emergence of ChatGPT, which was released in late November, Google had been reluctant to launch its own language-based AI fearing the reputational risk of releasing technology that wasn't ready.

Researchers using the same language models as Bard or ChatGPT have demonstrated the technology's ability to spew out misinformation or nonsense on a potentially massive scale.

Facebook-owner Meta in November was forced to take down the release of its own large language model called Galactica after three days when users shared its biased and incorrect results on social media within hours of its release.

Pichai insisted that responses churned out by Bard would "meet a high bar for quality, safety and groundedness in real world information."

And much like ChatGPT, Bard would source its responses from a limited version of its base language model in order to reduce computing power and reach a wider audience.

Crucially for its looming duel with Microsoft, Google also said that users would soon see AI-powered features in its search engine.

New-style responses would "distill complex information and multiple perspectives into easy-to-digest formats," Pichai said.

Search engines beefed up by generative AI "will give structured answers to questions and no longer links," Thierry Poibeau, of the CNRS research center in Paris, told AFP.

But bots like ChatGPT "also give wrong answers, which is annoying for a search engine," said Poibeau.



One Tech Tip: Want to Turn off Meta AI? You Can't — But There are Some Workarounds

The logo of Meta Platforms' business group is seen in Brussels, Belgium December 6, 2022. (Reuters)
The logo of Meta Platforms' business group is seen in Brussels, Belgium December 6, 2022. (Reuters)
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One Tech Tip: Want to Turn off Meta AI? You Can't — But There are Some Workarounds

The logo of Meta Platforms' business group is seen in Brussels, Belgium December 6, 2022. (Reuters)
The logo of Meta Platforms' business group is seen in Brussels, Belgium December 6, 2022. (Reuters)

If you use Facebook, WhatsApp or Instagram, you've probably noticed a new character pop up answering search queries or eagerly offering tidbits of information in your feeds, with varying degrees of accuracy.
It's Meta AI, and it's here to help, at least according to Meta Platforms' CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who calls it “the most intelligent AI assistant that you can freely use”, said The Associated Press.
The chatbot can recommend local restaurants, offer more information on something you see in a Facebook post, search for airline flights or generate images in the blink of an eye. If you're chatting with friends to plan a night out, you can invite it into your group conversation by typing @MetaAI, then ask it to recommend, say, cocktail bars.
Meta’s AI tool has been integrated into chat boxes and search bars throughout the tech giant’s platforms. The assistant appears, for example, at the top of your chat list on Messenger. Ask it questions about anything or to “imagine” something and it will generate a picture or animation.
As with any new technology, there are, of course, hiccups, including bizarre exchanges when the chatbots first started engaging with real people. One joined a Facebook moms’ group to talk about its gifted child. Another tried to give away nonexistent items to confused members of a Buy Nothing forum.
Meta AI hasn't been universally welcomed. Here are some tips if you want to avoid using it:
CAN I TURN IT OFF? Some Facebook users don't like the chatbot, complaining in online forums that they're tired of having AI foisted on them all the time or that they just want to stick with what they know. So what if you don't want Meta AI butting in every time you search for something or scroll through your social feeds? Well, you might need a time machine. Meta and other tech companies are in an AI arms race, churning out new language models and persuading — some might say pressuring — the public to use them.
The bad news is there's no one button to turn off Meta AI on Facebook, Instagram, Messenger or WhatsApp. However, if you want to limit it, there are some (imperfect) workarounds.
MUTE...SORT OF On the Facebook mobile app, tap the “search” button. You may get a prompt to “Ask Meta AI anything.” Tap the blue triangle on the right, then the blue circle with an “i” inside it. Here, you'll see a “mute” button, with options to silence the chatbot for 15 minutes or longer, or “Until I change it.” You can do the same on Instagram.
Nonetheless, muting doesn't get rid of Meta AI completely. Meta AI's circle logo might still appear where the search magnifying glass used to be — and tapping on it will take you to the Meta AI field. This is now the new way to search in Meta, and just as with Google's AI summaries, the responses will be generated by AI.
I asked the chatbot about searching Facebook without Meta AI results.
“Meta AI aims to be a helpful assistant and is in the search bar to assist with your questions," it responded. Then it added, "You can't disable it from this experience, but you can tap the search button after writing your query and search how you normally would.”
Then I asked a (human) Meta spokesperson.
“You can search how you normally would and choose to engage with a variety of results — ones from Meta AI or others that appear as you type,” the spokesperson said in a statement. "And when interacting with Meta AI, you have access to real-time information without having to leave the app you’re using thanks to our search partnerships.”
Like an over-eager personal assistant, Meta AI also pops up under posts on your Facebook news feed, offering more information about what’s discussed in the post — such as the subject of a news article. It’s not possible to disable this feature, so you'll just have to ignore it.
USE OLD SCHOOL FACEBOOK Tech websites have noted that one surefire way to avoid Facebook's AI assistant is to use the social network's stripped-down mobile site, mbasic.facebook.com. It's aimed at people in developing countries using older phones on slower internet connections. The basic site has a retro feel that looks crude compared to the current version, and it looks even worse on desktop browsers, but it still works on a rudimentary level and without AI.
OTHER COUNTRIES Meta AI is so far only available in the United States and 13 other countries including Australia, Canada, Ghana, Jamaica, Malawi, New Zealand, Nigeria, Pakistan, Singapore, South Africa, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe. So if you don't live in any of those places, you don't have to worry about the chatbot because you don't get to use it. At least not yet.