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Google to unveil Bard a direct competitor to ChatGPT as global AI battle hots up

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Google is set to unveil its rival to ChatGPT as the battle for the future of internet search comes to a head.

Bard is a conversational artificial intelligence (AI) service similar to ChatGPT that “can be an outlet for creativity and a launchpad for curiosity”, Sundar Pichai, Google’s chief executive, said. He wrote in a blog post that Bard would help “explain new discoveries from Nasa’s James Webb space telescope to a nine-year-old, or learn more about the best strikers in football right now, and then get drills to build your skills”.

The service, to be launched tomorrow, will be given first to testers and then the public in the coming weeks.

Pichai also said that its search engine will soon feature AI that can “distil complex information and multiple perspectives into easy-to-digest formats”.

It “draws on information from the web to provide fresh, high-quality responses”, raising the prospect that, unlike ChatGPT, which cannot provide information beyond 2021, it will be able to give answers and links to current events.

The announcement represents Google’s fightback against the challenge from ChatGPT and other AI that threaten its business model.

When ChatGBT was revealed in November observers, including the developer who created Gmail, said it was an existential threat to Google, which makes most of its money from advertisers paying to have their links displayed alongside a search query result in the hope that users will click on them. However, if an AI such as ChatGPT can index the internet and provide answers without users clicking on links, the dynamic of search completely changes.

This week Microsoft, which is the biggest investor behind ChatGPT, is due to reveal how it will incorporate the AI into Bing, its search engine.

After the Google blog post was published, Sam Altman, one of the founders of the ChatGPT company, Open AI, tweeted a picture of himself and Satya Nadella, the Microsoft chief executive, together in Seattle.

Ironically ChatGPT was made possible by an AI breakthrough from Google researchers, who unveiled the Transformer neural network in 2017. It gives ChatGPT the T in its name.

AI like ChatGPT have been developed by Google, Meta and other big tech firms, but they have been reluctant to release them for ethical, as well as business, reasons.

The AI can amplify biases in their training data and often “hallucinate” or give a false answer with confidence.

However ChatGPT was called a “code red moment” by Google executives, The New York Times reported, meaning that they needed to act quickly to keep up with Microsoft and others which are developing similar models.

Sergey Brin and Larry Page, the founders of Google, have returned to the company and are leading the effort, having previously stepped back from day-to-day operations.

The model that powers Bard is called LaMDA, which one Google researcher, Blake Lemoine, believed was sentient. He was ultimately sacked last year for speaking out and making “unfounded claims”.

Google announced last week that it has invested $400 million in Anthropic, an AI start-up that is also due to release its rival to ChatGPT, called Claude.

Anthropic was created by OpenAI workers who were concerned about the ethical direction of their former employer.

Pichai also announced that Google will allow developers to tap into its language models to create their own applications from next month, fuelling a boom in the sector.

Investment has surged in companies that develop “generative AI” like chatbots and programmes that create images, video and audio just from text prompts.

PitchBook, which tracks venture capital investment, found $1.4 billion was invested in the sector in 2022, up from $230 million in 2020.

The International Data Corporation, another data provider, predicts the market for the technology will almost double by 2025.

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