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Roving Periscope: Indian-origin Americans lead Google v/s Microsoft war on AI-based chatbot turf

Roving Periscope: Indian-origin Americans lead Google v/s Microsoft war on AI-based chatbot turf

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Virendra Pandit


New Delhi: Be ready for a gigantic ‘war’ between technology behemoths…as they don newer avatars for their own survival.

The first ‘warriors’ of this game are both Indian-origin Americans: Google CEO Sundar Pichai and Microsoft CEO Satya Nadela.

Search engine giant Google said late on Monday it will release a conversational chatbot named Bard, bracing for an Artificial Intelligence (AI) showdown with Microsoft which has invested billions of dollars in the development of the latest kid on the technology block, ChatGPT, the hugely popular language app that convincingly mimics human writing.

Launched on November 30, 2022, ChatGPT has already taken the technology world by storm and gathered millions of followers worldwide. Created by the San Francisco-based company OpenAI, it has caused a sensation for its ability to write essays, poems, or programming code on demand, and within seconds.

But it has also triggered widespread fears of cheating or entire professions, like journalism or content writing, becoming obsolete, the media reported.

In contrast, Google’s Bard is based on the company’s Language Model for Dialogue Applications System (LaMDA), and is being developed for years.

In January, Microsoft announced to back OpenAI and integrate ChatGPT features into its Teams platform. It might also 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. Even Gmail developer Paul Buccheit said Google was only a year or two from disruption from ChatGPT which could also bring down the world’s top search engine.

According to the media reports, the overnight success of ChatGPT has designated a “code red” threat at Google with its founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page — who left several years ago — brought back to brainstorm ideas and fast-track a response.

The pressure to act was heightened by the poor earnings posted last week by Google-parent Alphabet, which fell short of investor expectations. The company last month announced the lay-off of 12,000 people as it emphasized more on AI projects.

Google’s fresh announcement came on the eve of an AI-related launch event by Microsoft in yet another sign that the two tech giants will battle over the new technology, also known as generative AI.

“Generative AI is a game changer and much like the rise of the internet sank the networking giants that came before (AOL, CompuServe, etc.) it has the potential to change the competitive dynamic for search and information,” said a tech analyst, Rob Enderle.

“Google still largely lives off the fact their search engine is the most widely used, this could change that, relegating them to history,” he added.

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 “in the coming weeks.”

“Bard seeks to combine the breadth of the world’s knowledge with the power, intelligence, and creativity of our large language models,” Pichai said.

“It draws on information from the web to provide fresh, high-quality responses,” he said, hinting that the app would give up-to-the-date responses, something ChatGPT is unable to do.

Before the emergence of ChatGPT in end-2022, Google was reluctant to launch its own language-based AI fearing the reputational risk of releasing technology that wasn’t yet ready.

Researchers using the same language models as Bard or ChatGPT have demonstrated the technology’s ability to spew out misinformation or nonsense on a potentially massive scale.

In November 2022, Facebook owner Meta was forced to take down the release of its own large language model called Galactica after three days when users shared its biased and incorrect results on social media within hours of its release.

Pichai insisted that responses churned out by Bard would “meet a high bar for quality, safety, and groundedness in real-world information.”

And much like ChatGPT, Bard would source its responses from a limited version of its base language model to reduce computing power and reach a wider audience.

Crucially for its looming duel with Microsoft, Google also said that users would soon see AI-powered features in its search engine.

New-style responses would “distill complex information and multiple perspectives into easy-to-digest formats,” Pichai said.

Search engines beefed up by generative AI “will give structured answers to questions and no longer links,” Thierry Poibeau, of the CNRS research center in Paris, said. But bots like ChatGPT “also give wrong answers, which is annoying for a search engine.”


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