Google is set to launch its AI chatbot Bard in an effort to counter Microsoft’s early gains in the latest technology battleground.

Google’s parent company Alphabet began permitting more people to interact with Bard on Tuesday and has opened a waiting list to use the artificial intelligence tool, which is similar to the ChatGPT technology Microsoft began deploying on its Bing search engine last month.

Until now, Bard had only been available to a small group of “trusted testers” hand-picked by Google.

The California company is not saying how many people will be given access to Bard in the next stage. Initial applicants will be limited to the US and the UK before being offered to potential users in more countries.

Google describes Bard as an experiment allowing collaboration with generative AI, technology that relies on past data to create rather than identify content.

Unlike its rival ChatGPT, Bard is able to access up-to-date information from the internet and has a “Google it” button which accesses search. It also namechecks its sources for facts, such as Wikipedia.

But Google warned Bard would have “limitations” and said it might share misinformation and display bias.

ChatGPT is a conversational artificial intelligence application software (Photo: Lionel Bonaventure/AFP)
ChatGPT is a conversational artificial intelligence application software (Photo: Lionel Bonaventure/AFP)

This is because it “learns” from real-world information, in which those biases currently exist – meaning it is possible for stereotypes and false information to show up in its responses.

As a precautionary measure, Google is limiting the amount of interaction that can occur between Bard and its users, a move Microsoft has also made with ChatGPT after media coverage detailed instances when the technology likened an Associated Press reporter to Hitler and tried to persuade a New York Times reporter to divorce his wife.

In an acknowledgement that Bard may be prone to straying into manufacturing falsehoods, which are being called “hallucinations” in technology circles, Google is providing a query box connected to its search engine to make it easier for users to check the accuracy of the information being displayed by the AI.

Both Google and Microsoft are putting draft-writing technology into their word processors and other collaboration software, as well as marketing related tools for web developers to build their own AI-based applications.

Jack Krawczyk, a senior product director, said Google was focused on users. Internal and external testers have turned to Bard for “boosting their productivity, accelerating their ideas, really fueling their curiosity,” he said.

Bard is a descendant of an earlier language model of Google’s called Lamda, which was never fully released to the public. It did, however, attract a lot of attention when one of the engineers who worked on it claimed its answers were so compelling that he believed it was sentient. Google denied the claims and he was fired.

Krawczyk added: “We know the limitations of the technology, and so we want to be very deliberate at the pace at which we roll this out.”

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