ChatGPT and Bing. Who knew they could be so good together?
Welcome to AI wars. Not the kind we imagined when Skynet launched a surprise missile attack on its creators, but one where all the companies are vying to be the dominant source of your AI connection. To put this powerful technology at your fingertips for you and everyone else. And at the tip of that spear are, somewhat unexpectedly, Microsoft and Bing.
Here’s a crazy thing. I saw and tried out Microsoft’s new Bing search engine and its powerful chatbot that Microsoft unveiled at an event in Redmond, Washington on Tuesday, and I think Microsoft may have just won the first skirmish in this crucial battle for tech supremacy. This could be an unlikely moment for Bing. And by “moment” I mean the moment you finally start to realize or care that Microsoft has had its own search engine for over a decade.
You may want to start using Bing. At least as soon as you get access to the first version of Bing and its new chatbot, which I luckily have access to now.
New look, new AI powers
I know that Microsoft announced a new Chatbot-enhanced search engine just 24 hours after Google unveiled its ChatGPT rival Barda, and plans to reinvent its own much more popular search engine. But here’s the difference. Google Bard is soon. The new Bing is here and it works the way you want it to, and you expect the “Ask me anything” search engine to work.
In some ways, the new Bing looks very similar to the old Bing, but it’s not. The desktop version, which is out now and will be followed by the mobile version, does not hide or force the AI chat on you.
Of course, the interface looks different. There’s a new “Chat” option in the menu, and you can even switch between the main search screen and a screen entirely dedicated to the chatbot. Back on the search screen, the query box is much larger and holds up to 1000 characters for almost any natural language question you can cook up.
You can – and I did – type pretty much anything you want in this space. Microsoft says that most people type an average of 2.4 words into the search box, but this works within the parameters and limitations of a typical search engine. To be clear, Microsoft is not reinventing the wheel here. Most people already type long queries into Google search and get decent results based on keywords. However, the new Bing goes a step further.
Ask for anything
As we typed in our various queries, including a vain search on moi and longer ones like asking about baking blueberry muffins for someone who is allergic to gluten and milk, Bing collected standard fees like Wikipedia results on me and muffin recipes from various gourmet sites. If you just look at the center of the screen, you can assume nothing has changed, but the slightly slower fill on the right is a new field full of more conversational results from Bing’s chatbot.
The results are similar to its cousin ChatGPT, but also not. Microsoft basically took OpenAI’s work on ChatGPT and with the help of OpenAI iterated it, put the mighty power of Azure Cloud Services behind it and combined it with Bing’s knowledge graph to create what it calls the Prometheus model.
Going deeper and further
In each case, the chat output was more detailed, and since it is conversational, this first output may be just the beginning of a longer conversation. During the vanity search, we got details about my career, but then we asked the chatbot if I had ever won any awards. He found the ones I did and the ones where I came second (thanks for that reminder, new Bing).
At the bottom of this right-hand chat window is a “Let’s Talk” button that allows you to deepen your query with additional questions.
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In my baking question, I was given detailed information on how to find ingredients that would not bother my allergic friend. What is noteworthy about some, but not all, of these results is the way in which, unlike ChatGPT, each reference is cited in situ. I just had to hover over one to see the source or click to visit the source page.
On the chat screen, each result returns additional guidance questions to continue your search. When I started researching quadriceps exercises without back pain (I lied and told Bing I had injured myself last summer), Bing told me how sorry I hurt my back, adding, “I hope you’re feeling better now . 😊 Building the quadriceps can be a challenge if you have back pain, but there are certain exercises that can help you without hurting your back…” He then suggested a long list of well-cited exercise options. The list was extensive and full of quotes.
It’s early days
However, we’ve already seen results that don’t include references, such as one colleague did for exercise options that was link-free even though he recommended several different workout options. The problem would be that the chatbot didn’t even consider the possibility that the searcher couldn’t handle this kind of activity.
Still, the new Bing is early days, and the whole point of AI is that they learn (or can be trained) and get better. Moreover, the system has a feedback mechanism, so you can trigger inaccurate responses. You do this by selecting the “Dislike” option, but you can get more specific by adding details and a screenshot in the feedback window. I’d like to see the ability to highlight the exact offending text, right click and select “this is inaccurate”. Maybe in a future version.
Still, the beauty of what Microsoft has created here is the first fully integrated search AI. Not only is it sleek and useful (with Microsoft Edge integration, you can ask Bing Chat for a page summary), but, as is often the case with the best new AI tools, it’s also fun.
It also does what we probably always wanted to do, leading us to the best results. Google probably has the most powerful and comprehensive knowledge graph, but an initial search won’t necessarily yield the desired results. So you change your search. It’s a series of stops and starts until you reach your best result. With the addition of Bing Chat, your search becomes a funnel where additional context and questions can narrow down your area of interest until you get the best results.
True, there is a fear of abuse, but since Microsoft has built this on the already strong foundation of its oft-ignored search engine – the chat inherits Bing’s gifts and ability to mitigate bad, old, fake and harmful information.
I’m sure it won’t be foolproof as AI rarely is. Still, ChatGPT was a sensation not only because it is so powerful and easy to use, but also because it mostly managed to avoid the prejudice and poor judgment that plagued so many previous chatbots.
In other words, Microsoft combined a savvy search engine with what could be considered best-in-class consumer AI, improved both, and created something completely new that anyone can use without any training.
And they did it before Google.