Google revealed plans on Monday to launch a chatbot to rival OpenAI’s popular ChatGPT, as it seeks to make up lost ground in the race to bring powerful new language-based artificial intelligence to the internet search business.
The announcement comes more than two months after OpenAI drew worldwide attention with the public release of its chatbot, which highlighted an easier way to find answers to queries than using a traditional search engine such as Google.
Microsoft, which recently announced a “multibillion dollar” investment in OpenAI, has been gearing up to use its AI in its Bing search engine, potentially beating Google to the punch in the most important new technology to hit the search market in years.
Despite promising a number of moves that would make its most advanced AI available to internet users and developers, Google did not say when the new services would be generally available, leaving it scrambling to catch up with a number of companies that already use the technology.
In a blog post on Monday, chief executive Sundar Pichai sought to wrest back some of the initiative from OpenAI and Microsoft, pointing out that some of the core technologies behind ChatGPT and other generative AI services that produce text or images were invented at Google.
Despite its research leadership, however, Google has been slow to embed its most advanced AI into its services out of concern that it might produce misleading results. A number of former engineers also argue that the company has been held back by a bureaucratic approach to product development and unwillingness to launch new features that might weaken the profitability of its existing search service.
The moves promised by Pichai on Monday include a chatbot called Bard, which will give internet users access to Google’s most powerful language-based AI system LaMDA. By announcing it as a separate service under its own brand, Pichai appeared to signal that Google would keep the new chatbot interface separate from its search engine.
Using AI to “read” web pages and offer a direct answer to users is far more expensive than carrying out a traditional internet search. In an apparent move to reduce the pressure on profits, the Google chief said Bard would use a “lightweight” version of LaMDA that “requires significantly less computing power”.
Pichai also said Google would use AI to answer complex questions inside its search engine, without requiring users to trawl through a number of different websites. In another move to match OpenAI, he added that Google would release APIs, or programming links, to LaMDA, making it possible for developers to build their own services that tap into the language AI.
A number of search start-ups, including Perplexity AI and Neeva, have already embedded advanced language technology from OpenAI and other companies in their services, either to provide longer answers to specific queries or to replace their search results pages altogether with chatbots such as ChatGPT.