It wasn’t a good week for Google. Not only did the company’s buggy Live from Paris event fall short of expectations, but its long-awaited new AI chatbot, Bard, made a factual error in demo video (opens in a new tab) which was to show the impressive possibilities of the software.
Error – which sent Google’s market value fell by $100 billion (opens in a new tab) – saw Bard incorrectly respond to a user who asked, “What new discoveries from the James Webb Space Telescope can I tell my 9-year-old?” In the clip, the chatbot responds with a series of bullet points, including one that reads, “JWST took the first images of a planet outside our solar system.”
However, NASA says the first image of such a planet, called an exoplanet, was taken by the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope in 2004. In other words, Bard misphrased the query, which raised concerns about the future integration of the software with Google Search.
Bard is an experimental conversational AI service powered by LaMDA. Built using our large language models and information from the web, it is a starting point for curiosity and can help simplify complex topics → pic.twitter.com/JecHXVmt8lFebruary 6, 2023
Essentially, Bard is Google’s answer to Microsoft-backed ChatGPT – an “experimental conversational AI service” that promises to answer complex questions in an informal style. The software is powered by LaMDA (short for Language Model for Dialogue Applications) which, like ChatGPT, allows Bard to understand human language as it is written.
But where Microsoft wants to go full steam ahead with its redesigned, AI-powered search engine Bing, Google is taking its time to fully integrate Bard into Google Search – and for good reason.
In response to Bard’s very public blunder, Google issued the following statement CNN (opens in a new tab): “This [error] highlights the importance of the rigorous testing process we are starting this week with the Trusted Tester program. We will combine external feedback with our own internal testing to ensure that Bard’s responses meet high standards of quality, security and grounded in real information.”
So it’s clear that Google is downplaying the viability of AI-powered search engines for now. The company continues to describe Bard as an “experimental” service, with a disclaimer below the program’s search box (see below) implying that it “may provide inaccurate or inappropriate information”, as was the case with the aforementioned James Webb Space Telescope query.
Analysis: Is Microsoft jumping the gun?
Microsoft, on the other hand, is turning up the heat on Google by bringing AI-powered Bing to the masses – here’s how to use ChatGPT’s new Bing search engine if you’re interested – when the program may not yet be ready for real-world use.
But Google has more to lose than Microsoft in this AI battle. On average, Google hosts nearly 90% of global queries, while Bing handles slightly less than 10%. Microsoft is clearly hoping its rapid ChatGPT integration with Bing will increase that market share before Google has a chance to respond with a full-scale rollout of its own Bard program.
However, Google is clearly hesitant to pull the trigger on Bard if software integrity is not watertight – a bug-prone Bard would undermine the integrity of Google Search as a whole.
We’ll be bringing you all the latest developments in the ongoing battle between Google and Microsoft in the coming weeks, so stay tuned to TechRadar for more.