2023 is already the year of consumer AI. You can find ChatGPT and GPT language models in Microsoft Bing’s AI search, DuckDuckGo, as well as many other programs—but it’s not just OpenAI having all the fun. Now, Google is rolling out Bard, its AI chatbot partner for Google search, to anyone who wants to test it. You might just need wait a bit first.
How Google’s Bard AI works
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Like OpenAI’s ChatGPT is powered by the GPT-3 language model, Bard is built on an LLM (large language model) version of Google’s LaMDA (Language Model for Dialogue Applications) language model. Google wants you to think of this LLM as a predictive engine, since Bard picks each word it chooses by analyzing what would logically come next in the pattern. To make Bard sound more human, and less robotic, there’s some variability included in the design. That way, it doesn’t pick the same words over and over again, even if that would make the most sense from the algorithm’s viewpoint.
Like Bing AI, you can ask Bard anything you want, and receive a thoughtful answer pulling from a wealth of knowledge. Google readily admits Bard doesn’t offer perfect answers. In the example below, it points out how Bard gets the scientific name for ZZ plant wrong, saying “Zamioculcas zamioculcas” instead of “Zamioculcas zamiifolia.” But the company says the more people use it, the better it will get. For what it’s worth, The Verge was able to stump the AI, producing incorrect answers from a query about maximum load of a particular washing machine, and only offering a half-answer about who delivered the latest White House press briefing.
To make the responses more useful, Bard will often offer you multiple versions of any given answer, so you can curate the direction of the conversation. And it is a conversation: You can keep asking Bard questions related to the previous prompt, and the chatbot will answer in kind. If you don’t like an answer, or think it’s inaccurate, you can have Bard try again. Whenever you want to explore a given response in deeper detail, or check out the sources for that response, you can hit a “Google it” button to jump into a Google search.
Following some, ahem, “snafus” with other AI chatbots, Google has implemented some guardrails here, such as limiting the number of exchanges for any given conversation. It likely wants to avoid the situation Microsoft found itself in with Sydney, Bing’s AI chatbot personality, who could be easily provoked into harassing the end user, as well as share its desires for destroying whatever it wanted.
How to test Bard right now
If you’d like to try out Bard for yourself, you can sign up for Google’s waitlist at bard.google.com. Today’s rollout is only for U.S. and UK users, but Google says it will support more countries and languages “over time.”