Google launches waitlist for AI-driven search tool as race with Microsoft and OpenAI heats up

Sissie Hsiao speaks about Bard at a Google I/O event in Mountain View, Calif., Wednesday, May 10, 2023.
Sissie Hsiao speaks about Bard at a Google I/O event in Mountain View, Calif., Wednesday, May 10, 2023. Copyright AP Photo/Jeff Chiu
Copyright AP Photo/Jeff Chiu
By Camille BelloAP
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Google plans to infuse its search engine with artificial intelligence (AI) as it faces fierce competition from Microsoft and ChatGPT.


Google has announced how it will infuse its search engine with artificial intelligence (AI) technology, as the AI-powered chatbot ChatGPT gains momentum and challenges the tech giant’s position as the primary gateway to the Internet.

Google had already announced in mid-March plans to integrate AI into home office software - Gmail, Meet, Docs - but the company is now ready to test the AI waters with its search engine.

Bard, a conversational generative AI similar to ChatGPT, will become available to users in more than 180 countries. The language model will also add more than 40 languages beyond English, beginning with Japanese and Korean.

Google’s moves, announced during its annual conference, come three months after Microsoft's Bing search engine already started to tap into AI technology.

“We are at an exciting inflection point," Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai told a packed developers conference in a speech peppered with one AI reference after another. “We are reimagining all our products, including search”.

Google will have to juggle between innovation and reliability when incorporating artificial intelligence into its search engine. While AI can produce convincing information, many experts have pointed out that the accuracy and quality of the output are not trustworthy. The generated text can sometimes be biased, limited or even completely false.

The tendency to produce deceptively convincing answers to questions - a phenomenon described as “hallucinations” - has already emerged during the early testing of Bard, which like ChatGPT, relies on still-evolving generative AI technology.



It’s still unclear how long it will take before Google`s search engine will start including generative AI results in its search results. It may take several weeks before Google starts sending invitations to those accepted from a waitlist to trial the new technology.

The tests will also include the more traditional links to external websites where users can read more extensive information about queried topics, which other chatbots like ChatGPT do not include.

The AI results will be clearly tagged as an experimental form of technology and Google is pledging that the AI-generated summaries will sound more factual than conversational - a distinct contrast from Bard and ChatGPT, which are programmed to convey more human-like responses.

The company is also building in clear limitations to prevent the Bard from responding to sensitive questions about health - such as, “Should I give Tylenol to a 3-year-old?” - and finance matters. In those instances, Google will continue to steer people to authoritative websites.

Google has also announced it is adding a new search filter - along with existing ones for news, images and video - called “Perspectives” that will focus on what people are saying online about whatever topic is entered into the search engine.

The Mountain View, California, company has been under intensifying pressure to demonstrate how its search engine will maintain its leadership since Microsoft began to load AI into Bing, which remains a distant second to Google.

More recently, The New York Times reported Samsung is considering dropping Google as the default search engine on its widely used smartphones, raising the spectre that Apple might do the same with the iPhone unless Google can show its search engine can evolve with what appears to be a forthcoming AI-driven revolution.

But the new announcements are already paying off. Shares in Alphabet - Google’s parent company - surged 4 per cent on Wednesday.

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