September 20, 2023 08:09
Google announced Tuesday that its Bard chatbot would be integrated into Gmail, YouTube and other applications in a push to broaden Alphabet's user experience.
Google has spent years refining its generative AI without immediate plans to release a chatbot, until OpenAI unveiled ChatGPT late last year and partnered with Microsoft to popularize the cutting-edge tool. Google scrambled to put together its response: Bard.
Google cleared hurdles earlier this year to release Bard across the globe in dozens of languages, squeaking past European regulators who raised questions about the chatbot's effect on data security. The search engine giant is now waging a campaign to win public support.
These new updates -- Bard extensions -- represent the company's most ambitious attempt at popularizing generative AI. Going forward, Bard can work as a plug-in with Google Drive, Gmail, YouTube and more.
A user might ask Bard to distill a string of lengthy and confusing emails into a pithy summary or order the chatbot to find the quickest route to an address using Google Maps. The plug-in can be used by students and professionals who might want Bard to scour dense PDFs and Google Docs and return a list of bullet points.
A common criticism of chatbots is their inaccuracy and apparent ability to falsify information. Computer scientists call this flaw "hallucinations." The Bard plug-in will include a button to fact-check the chatbot's answers against search engine results in real time to determine if Bard is "hallucinating."
Generative AI combs vast databases for linguistic patterns and other information in a process known as data-scraping. Data-scraping is what empowers Bard and ChatGPT to create unique, humanlike answers to queries in an instant. Essentially, chatbots imitate what is already available on the internet.
Activists have long worried that companies might train their chatbots on unsuspecting users' personal information. Google said that Bard will access private data only with permission.
Google also said that any data-scraping it might perform on what users have stored in their personal Docs, Drive or Gmail accounts would not be used in targeted advertising or training Bard. Nor would private content be accessible to Google employees.
"You're always in control of your privacy settings when deciding how you want to use these extensions, and you can turn them off at any time," Google said in a blog post.
The Bard extensions come after Microsoft similarly incorporated ChatGPT into Bing earlier this year but ultimately failed to gain ground in its war on Google's search engine dominance.
According to market analytics, ChatGPT, Bard's top competitor, has been suffering marked declines in its user base as mania over generative AI has waned in recent months. Google is hoping to capitalize on ChatGPT's losses and for Bard to catch up.
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