Google is preparing to launch its Bard AI chatbot and related APIs this month. A reactionary release to combat Microsoft’s transformative Bing Chat AI search engine, Bard is widely thought to be integrating into Google Search. However, Google is now saying internally that it is not specifically a search tool, and the pivot is causing confusion amongst employees.
Microsoft’s multi-billion-dollar investment into OpenAI in January gave the company unique access to the technology that powers ChatGPT. Microsoft took the chatbot AI and built its own Prometheus AI engine to power the new Bing Chat. Furthermore, the company is going all-in and integrating AI across all its services.
Google was caught off guard by Microsoft’s swift commitment to AI and launch of a product. So much so there was a code red within the company. While Google is just as heavily invested in AI as Microsoft is, the company was not preparing to launch Bard, its own chatbot. But to compete with Microsoft and not be left behind, the company announced the March release of Bard.
During the announcement presentation, the chatbot got information wrong, embarrassing Google and sending the company’s shares falling. CEO Sundar Pichai then ordered employees to spend 2 to 4 hours per day using the bot and testing it. This demand was on an already flustered workforce following Google’s January decision to slash 12,000 jobs.
Even so, all this has happened with the idea that Bard is an AI chatbot that is focusing on search. Google executives now say that is not actually true. CNBC reports the leader of the Bard development team has corrected employees on what the AI will be.
During an all-hands meeting last week, Bard development head Jack Krawczyk says that search is not the core focus of the bot:
“Why do we think the big first application should be Search, which at its heart is about finding true information? I just want to be very clear: Bard is not search.”
Instead, he points out the AI is a “creative companion” that can be used in search but is not specifically for it.
“But as you want to get into more of the search-oriented journeys, we already have a product for that — it’s called search.”
This apparently even confused employees, who were testing the AI as a search tool. Could it be that Bard is not progressing well enough as a pure search AI and Google is pivoting the bot? Maybe, and one employee said there is a feeling that bard is “a knee-jerk reaction without a strategy.” Pichai was at the meeting and disagreed with the claim:
“I disagree with the premise of this question” he says. “We are deeply working on AI for a long time. You are right in the sense that, we have to stay focused on users and make sure we are building things which are impactful. User input is going to be an important part of the process so it’s important to get it right.”
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