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Google's ChatGPT competitor, Bard, has launched for over-18s

Google has begun to roll out its AI chatbot Bard, but it is only available to select users who are over the age of 18.

Unlike its viral rival ChatGPT, it can obtain current information from the internet and features a "Google it" button for searching.

It also cites its sources for information, such as Wikipedia.

But, Google noted that Bard would have "limitations," including the possibility of disinformation and prejudice.

This is because it "learns" from real-world information, which has certain biases, implying that prejudices and erroneous information may appear in its replies.

How do chatbots function?

AI chatbots are designed to respond to enquiries online in natural, human-like language.

They are capable of writing everything from speeches and commercial copy to computer code and student essays.

According to OpenAI, the company behind ChatGPT, when it started in November 2022, it had more than one million users within a week.

Microsoft has invested billions of dollars in it, and it was just integrated into its search engine Bing.

Microsoft has also announced plans to include the technology in its office products, including Word, Excel, and Powerpoint.

Google has been a slower and more cautious runner in the generative AI race with its version, Bard, which will initially launch in the US and UK. To use it, users must first register.

Bard is a descendant of Google's previous Lamda language paradigm, which was never completely given to the public. It did, however, garner a lot of attention when one of the engineers who worked on it stated that its responses were so convincing that he thought it was sentient. Google disputed the charges and dismissed him.

According to Google senior product director Jack Krawczyk, Bard is "an experiment" that he hopes people would use as a "launchpad for creativity."

He demonstrated how he had utilised Bard to assist him in planning his little child's birthday celebration.

It created a theme based on his child's love of bunny bunnies and gymnastics, discovered the address of a place he indicated, and recommended party games and food.

"AI is the hero in so much of the [media] coverage," Mr. Krawczyk remarked. "I believe that the human is the hero, and that huge language model may assist release creativity."

While ChatGPT's knowledge database only goes back to 2021 and cannot answer enquiries regarding the recent earthquakes in Turkey and Syria, Bard has access to current information. It described a news report about TikTok being prohibited on UK government phones that were published a few days ago on the BBC website.

It is programmed not to respond to offensive prompts and has filters in place to prevent it from sharing harmful, illegal, sexually explicit, or personally identifiable information, but "as with any method, these guardrails will occasionally fail," according to Zoubin Ghahramani, vice president of Google Research.

Make no mistake: this is an exceedingly careful product launch, about as far removed from the early days of big tech's "move fast and break stuff" arrogance as it is possible to get.

When I questioned if the company was apprehensive about the debut of Bard, Mr. Krawczyk paused before responding that it was "intentional."

If Google is concerned, it has cause to be.

For all of the excitement surrounding this type of technology, there are horror stories about some of the more disturbing things ChatGPT has been manipulated into doing, and there are also fears that these powerful tools, which are still in their infancy, could eventually pose a significant threat to a wide range of jobs.

There is also a belief, which is particularly pertinent to Google, that chatbots may one day completely supplant the lucrative industry of internet search. Why sift through pages of search result links when you can receive one concise answer? Google cannot afford to fall behind.

Mr. Krawczyk and Mr. Ghahramani talked a lot about the responsibility and principles that come with the tech. They even told me about the huge data centres powering Bard, and how they aim to run them using renewable energy.

When I questioned if students would start utilizing Bard instead of ChatGPT to conduct their schoolwork, they disclosed that Google was barring access to anyone above the age of 18. Although some schools have welcomed chatbots, teachers have urged students not to use them to perform their homework for them.

Google says it will rigorously monitor Bard to ensure it follows its own "AI standards," which include not creating or reinforcing prejudice.

It will not be able to voice thoughts or adopt an identity, but it will be able to replicate the writing styles of others, similar to ChatGPT.

It assisted Google in writing its announcement, according to Sissie Hsiao and Eli Collins of the company, who were also co-authors of the launch blog post.

"It didn't always get things right, but it made us laugh even when it didn't," they added.

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