Google Releases Bard, Kind Of

Google continues to be extremely cautious in its approach to generative AI, but it seems to have realized it has to at least mention the subject once in a while – and today’s release of Bard, albeit in limited fashion – is one of those moments. The company is obsessively calling Bard “an experiment” – but it’s managed to orchestrate a slew of press outlets to simultaneously cover Bard’s launch today.  Reading through the coverage, my initial response is … underwhelmed – and I think that’s what Google wanted.

From the almost stultifying blog post announcing Bard’s limited release to the sanitized examples offered to the press, this announcement has been calculated to make exactly zero waves. As I wrote earlier, Google seems terrified that Bard might upstage its core business in search.

While supposedly “anyone” can sign up for the Bard waitlist, I found that to not exactly be true:

I couldn’t sign up for the waitlist because my domain is on Google Workspace. Why? Who knows. One might speculate it has something to do with protecting their Workspace revenue, or maybe they want to migrate us when the announced integrations for Google Docs/Sheets/Etc. are ready, but it’s annoying nevertheless.

In the interest of your time, a quick roundup of some of the press:

The Times on the Bard news: “Google started Bard as a webpage on its own rather than a component of its search engine, beginning a tricky dance of adopting new A.I. while preserving one of the tech industry’s most profitable businesses.”

The Verge with a “hands on” review: “Google is stressing that Bard is not a replacement for its search engine but, rather, a “complement to search” — a bot that users can bounce ideas off of, generate writing drafts, or just chat about life with.”

Wired: “Bard is also like ChatGPT in that it will sometimes make things up and act weird. Google disclosed an example of it misstating the name of a plant suggested for growing indoors. “Bard’s an early experiment, it’s not perfect, and it’s gonna get things wrong occasionally,” says Eli Collins, a vice president of research at Google working on Bard.”

Google’s own blog post:  “Bard is a direct interface to an LLM, and we think of it as a complementary experience to Google Search. Bard is designed so that you can easily visit Search to check its responses or explore sources across the web. Click “Google it” to see suggestions for queries, and Search will open in a new tab so you can find relevant results and dig deeper. We’ll also be thoughtfully integrating LLMs into Search in a deeper way — more to come.”

And the Journal’s subhed says it all: “Alphabet unit stops short of integrating new conversational computer program into its search function.”


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