There has been a lot of talk around artificial intelligence lately, especially after OpenAI launched its revolutionary ChatGPT service which Microsoft is now looking to integrate into Office 365 and Bing search. Meanwhile, Google has been a self-proclaimed “IA-first” company since announcing a change in direction at I/O 2017, and more recently unveiled plans for a AI-powered Google search feature called Bard. But in a sea of buzzwords and acronyms, it can be hard to figure out what these new tools actually do.
Google Search already uses AI to understand colloquial language and powerful tools like Google Lens And Google Assistant, then you might be wondering how Bard is different. The key is in Bard’s conversation and ability to answer questions – but there’s a lot more to it than that, so let’s dive in.
What is Bard and where does he come from?
In the simplest terms, Bard is generative AI – it’s the generic name for AI models like ChatGPT and DALL-E that can create new content. Generative AIs can create video, audio, and images, but Bard focuses on creating text, especially text that answers your questions in a natural and conversational way.
Bard takes his name from the word meaning “poet” – as in the bard of Avalon, William Shakespeare – in reference to his linguistic abilities.
Considering the timing, Bard might seem like a product that was rushed to compete with ChatGPT. But interestingly, Google actually laid the groundwork for ChatGPT by making its Transformer deep learning model publicly available in 2017, and Bard’s main backend, TheMDA, was announced nearly two years ago. So OpenAI’s new tool shares a common lineage with Google, but Bard himself has taken years to develop.
Bard is based on LaMDA, a conversational AI model launched by Google in 2021
How does Bard work?
Google wants Bard to complete the Graphic knowledge cards that you see in search when you make queries that have a simple answer. While a knowledge graphic map might provide you with the definition of a word or insight into a person or place, Bard seeks to answer NORA questions, as Google calls them – searches with No One Right Answer.
To do this, Bard first uses LaMDA language models to understand your question and its context, even if it contains colloquialisms that search engines have traditionally struggled with. After that, Bard draws on information he finds on the web to form a response, which is then transformed into the type of conversational response you might expect from a real person (again, thanks to LaMDA).
Google wants you to use this tool to deepen your understanding of topics and help you make decisions. During a demonstration in Paris, the company asked the chatbot to help it decide which car to buy, then asked follow-up questions about the benefits of electric vehicles. Such feats might negate the need to click through search results, but Google is careful to maintain its relationships with websites and content creators. Senior Vice President Prabhakar Raghavan had this to say about it:
As we expand these new generative AI features into our search results, we continue to prioritize the process that will allow us to send valuable traffic to a wide range of creators and support a healthy, open web.
When can I use Bard?
In addition to internal dogfood users, Google has already made Bard available to a select group of trusted testers. The company said it plans to open a public early access program for the tool in the coming weeks. If beta registration becomes available, we’ll be sure to update this page with a link and instructions on how to register.
During testing, Bard will use a lite version of LaMDA, which Google says will allow it to make the preview version of the tool available to more users. The company aims to use this testing phase to refine Bard’s accuracy, quality, and speed.
The test version of Bard is a standalone utility, but the tool will eventually be integrated with Google Search
Once Bard completes its testing phases, it should finally be integrated into Google Search. At this point, using the feature should then be as simple as typing any query into the search bar – you’ll notice things are different when Google gives you a full answer in plain English instead of a map and a list of links.