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Google AI v ChatGPT and the Search Chatbot Race

With all the recent ‘buzz’ around AI search tools. and in particular ChatGPT, Google has recently announced that a new chat based search feature is being released soon, based on its own AI tool called LaMDA. However, is Google being rushed into the market by Microsoft’s introduction of a new Bing search using ChatGPT, and where does this leave the future of online search tools?

Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai recently confirmed that “in the coming weeks and months, we’ll make these language models available, starting with LaMDA, so that people can engage directly with them. This will help us continue to get feedback, test, and safely improve them. These models are particularly amazing for composing, constructing, and summarising. They will become even more useful for people as they provide up-to-date more factual information”.

He first spoke about Google being an AI-first company more than six years ago. They’ve been preparing for this moment since early last year and also announced that they will be “launching more labs products and beta features in certain cases and just slowly scaling up from there. Obviously, we need to make sure we’re iterating in public, these models will keep getting better, so the field is fast changing, but it’s very early days”.

That was highlighted by $100bn recently being knocked off the market value of Alphabet (the parent company of Google) due to an advert designed to show off its new AI bot actually answered a query incorrectly. In the promotion for the bot known as Bard recently released on Twitter, the bot was asked about what to tell a nine-year-old about discoveries from the James Webb Space Telescope.

It offered the response that the telescope was the first to take pictures of a planet outside the earth’s solar system, when in fact that milestone was claimed by the European Very Large Telescope in 2004 – a mistake quickly noted by astronomers on Twitter.

AI chatbots are designed to accurately answer questions and find information, which could therefore be used as a new type of search tool. The Microsoft backed ChatGPT tool is the best-known example. They use what’s on the internet as an enormous database of knowledge to compile answers, although there are concerns that this can also include offensive material and disinformation.

Google has been under pressure since late last year, when Microsoft unveiled their use of the tool for search, and more recently when Microsoft said a new version of its Bing search engine – which has lagged Google for years – would use its the open-source ChatGPT technology in an even more advanced form.

Experts believe the ultimate aim of chatbots lies in internet search, replacing pages of web links with one definitive answer as people are using Google search to ask more nuanced questions than previously. For example, a common question about the piano in the past may have been how many keys it has, whereas now it is more likely to be whether it is more difficult to learn than the guitar – which does not have an immediate factual answer.

Although investors have embraced the push for artificial intelligence and the AI chatbot race, sceptics have warned that rushing out the technology raises risks of errors which could impact a firm’s market value. A Google spokesperson said its embarrassing error highlighted “the importance of a rigorous testing process, something that we’re kicking off this week with our Trusted Tester programme”.

The use of AI Large Language Model (LLM) tools that can read, summarise, translate texts and predict future words in a sentence, letting them generate sentences similar to how humans talk and write, is inevitable. These are now being integrated into search engines as AI can be helpful to synthesize insights for questions where there’s no one right answer. However, how error-free these will be, especially at these early stages remains to be seen and rushing to release search chatbots too soon could be an expensive endeavour, as Google (Alphabet) has recently seen to its cost.

You can read more about Google’s launch in Feb 2023 of its ChatGPT rival, called Bard.

If you want to know more about the development of LLM and search chatbots, please get in touch.