The AI chatbot race is on in earnest – but one entrant has already seemingly stormed out of the gate: Google Bard. Amidst the excitement and turmoil of ChatGPT, Microsoft’s updated Bing and more, Google announced it would be joining in with its own AI offering, Bard, but an underwhelming launch event followed by some mixed messages left the search giant to mix I’m informed.
Microsoft debuted the newly equipped Bing with ChatGPT last month as a Bing search add-on. This is likely to try to capitalize on the impressive user registration numbers on OpenAI’s ChatGPT tool and drive users in the direction of Bing, as opposed to, say, Google.
Understandably, Google announced its own contender – the Google Bard. Now, leaked internal discussions at Google have offered more information on what Google Bard is supposed to be. According a recording of a meeting with Google executives obtained by CNBC (opens in new tab), is currently being developed as something other than specifically a search assistant tool. That’s a marked difference from how it was first presented, including in Google’s own demo video — which didn’t inspire the most confidence in Google Bard after it returned incorrect information during the demo.
Not to be ~well, actually~, and I’m sure Bard will be impressed, but for the record: JWST did not take “the first image of a planet outside our solar system”. the first image was made by Chauvin et al. (2004) with the VLT/NACO using adaptive optics. https://t.co/bSBb5TOeUW pic.twitter.com/KnrZ1SSz7hFebruary 7, 2023
This initial release and subsequent internal messages are somewhat contradictory. At the aforementioned meeting, executives answered questions from Google’s internal forum, most of which had to do with Bard. Head of Product for Bard, Jack Krawczyk, answered one of those questions, which asked if search is the most appropriate purpose for tools like Bard and ChatGPT.
This is a valid question because while they are large text language models (LLMs) that produce persuasive and relevant human-sounding text, they do not ensure that their production is fact-based.
Jack Krawczyk responded with “Bard’s not looking.” He elaborated that Bard is an experimental product and is more of a “sparkle for the imagination”, to help “explore your curiosity”. He even added that Google couldn’t stop people from using Bard to search, but his emphasis is clear that that won’t be its primary role, and that if you want to search, that’s what Google Search is for.
Elizabeth Reid, vice president of engineering for search at Google, supported Krawczyk, reiterating that Bard will be separate from search and that Google wants to “keep the heart of search.” He added, however, that Google had a rich history of using large language models in search, perhaps indicating that Bard could become one of them.
Again, this is a bit of a departure from the lead in Bard’s announcement, which said that Bard is being developed so that it can be integrated into Google search, and that there was a lot of emphasis on that in the original strategy. Several anonymous Googlers said that this change in messaging has caused them confusion and that they found the messages from executives inconsistent.
While Wall Street wasn’t too impressed with these mixed messages (Google stock is down since Bard was announced), that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
We’re in the early stages of this technology, so in my opinion, caution is warranted and keeping as much feedback as possible makes sense. After Bard’s announcement, Google’s company leaders insisted that employees test Bard and review incorrect answers, citing a “great responsibility to get it right.”
The “first out of the gate” position is already taken, and the interest in AI chatbots is sure to last for some time, so taking the time to make sure it’s released in the best possible shape is a wise move. However, it’s hard to say exactly when Bard will debut, as Googlers themselves seem surprised by its current development.
Google’s current leadership has come under scrutiny, especially for the recent introduction of Bard, and no one wants to show the long-term growth cards. With Google having a monopoly on the search game, its AI chatbot is perhaps the most anticipated, but as we’ve already seen, the slightest mistake can have big repercussions.
I have no doubt that Google will try to prevent this from happening again, but the sooner the better it gives both potential users and its own employees, the sooner it can catch up to – and even overtake – its competition in the chat AI space. After all, Google is more used to leading the pack than following it