Google seems ready to unveil its ChatGPT rival

Sundar Pichai, senior vice president of Android, Chrome and Apps (Manu Fernandez/AP)

Sundar Pichai, senior vice president of Android, Chrome and Apps (Manu Fernandez/AP)

Google may soon allow the public to play around with its answer to ChatGPT, the viral chatbot that uses AI to answer questions and perform tasks.

The tech giant is under pressure to come up with a response to the tool, which threatens to overshadow its dominant services, including Google Search.

ChatGPT users have asked the free bot for help with a range of questions, from writing emails to help with their homework, much to the chagrin of teachers. It has even passed exams at law and business universities in the US.

Google plans to let people interact “directly” with its “most powerful” AI language models to complement Search, with interest in the tool refusing to wane, CEO Sundar Pichai said.

It’s unclear how the tool will work and how users will be able to interact with it on Search. The most direct difference between ChatGPT and Google Search is that the former answers your question directly, while the latter provides search results for you to search. According to The Verge, Google’s latest AI model could even appear at an event the company is hosting on February 8.

“Join us to learn how we’re helping people around the world better access to information through Search, Maps and more,” the company says.

During Google’s latest earnings call, Pichai said the first model people can use will be LaMDA, the company’s conversational AI model. The company previously tested LaMDA as part of a writing tool that could generate prose, and on an app which allows a limited number of users to chat with the chatbot.

While Google has added new AI models to its search engine in the past, they mostly work behind the scenes, resulting in little fanfare for its long-running utility service. For example, the company’s Multitask Unified Model, or MUM, is designed to reduce the number of queries it takes to answer your question. It can also recognize both text and images, and up to 75 different languages, to deliver refined results, according to Google.

By comparison, AI company OpenAI made an instant impact by allowing anyone to sign up to use its free ChatGPT service when it launched late last year. Users soon started sharing the impressive comments on social media, causing a snowball effect. The bot shot up one million users in the first five days, according to founder Sam Altman. Recent analysis suggests that the number has since risen to 100 million users.

OpenAI investor Microsoft jumped at the chance to compete with Google and recently began adding ChatGPT’s capabilities to its enterprise tools, including its Azure blue cloud service and a premium version thereof teams workplace chat software.

Still, it’s too early to count Google out of the chatbot race. As Pichai noted, its AI models will provide “up-to-date, more factual information,” something ChatGPT cannot currently do because it has limited knowledge of post-2021 world events.

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