Google said Monday it will release a conversational chatbot named Bard, launching a rivalry with Microsoft that has invested billions of dollars in the creators of ChatGPT, a language AI 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 professions becoming obsolete.
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 brought back to the company to brainstorm ideas, with engineers remobilized to fast-track a response.
The pressure to act was made even more urgent 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.
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 to the public “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, referring to the technology behind ChatGPT-like AI.
“It draws on information from the web to provide fresh, high-quality responses,” he added.
Before the emergence of ChatGPT, which was released in late November, Google had been reluctant to release its own language-based AI fearing the reputational risk of releasing technology that wasn’t ready.