Google has announced it is allowing more people to interact with Bard, the AI chatbot the company is building to counter Microsoft’s early lead in a pivotal battleground of technology.
The tech giant is opening a waiting list to use the artificial intelligence tool which is similar to the ChatGPT technology Microsoft began deploying in its Bing search engine to much fanfare last month.
Last week, Microsoft embedded more AI-powered technology in its word processing, spreadsheet and slide presentation programmes with a new feature called Copilot.
Until now, Bard had only been available to a small group of “trusted testers” hand-picked by Google.
The California company is not saying how many people will be given access to Bard in the next stage. Initial applicants will be limited to the US and the UK before Google offers Bard in more countries.
That is because Google’s dominant search engine has become a de facto gateway to the internet for billions of people, raising the risk of a massive backlash that could tarnish its image and undercut its ad-driven business if the technology behaved badly.
Despite the technology’s pitfalls, Bard still offers “incredible benefits” such as “jumpstarting human productivity, creativity and curiosity”, Google said in a blog post written by two of its vice presidents, Sissie Hsiao and Eli Collins, with assistance from Bard.
As a precautionary measure, Google is limiting the amount of interaction that can occur between Bard and its users — a tactic Microsoft has imposed with ChatGPT after media coverage detailed instances when the technology likened an Associated Press reporter to Hitler and tried to persuade a New York Times reporter to divorce his wife.
Google is also providing access to Bard through a separate site from its search engine, which serves as the foundation for the digital ads that generate most of its profits.
In a tacit acknowledgement that Bard may be prone to straying into manufacturing falsehoods, which are being called “hallucinations” in technology circles, Google is providing a query box connected to its search engine to make it easier for users to check the accuracy of the information being displayed by the AI.
Bard made an embarrassing blunder shortly after Google unveiled the tool by prominently displaying a wrong answer about a scientific milestone during a presentation that was supposed to show how smart the technology could be.
The gaffe contributed to a nearly 8% drop in Google parent firm Alphabet’s stock in a day, wiping out about £82 billion in shareholder wealth and underscoring how closely investors are watching how Google handles the transition to AI.