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What is Google’s Bard AI? Here's everything you need to know
With natural language chatbots like ChatGPT gaining popularity, it was only a matter of time before the competition ramped up. Google’s Bard AI is one of the newest rival chatbots designed to complement the company’s search engine. Bard is based on Google’s in-house PaLM 2 language model, which the company says should hold up against ChatGPT’s underlying GPT-3.5 in many areas. This means the chatbot can hold conversations on a variety of topics and generate brand-new text that doesn’t exist anywhere else.
But what exactly separates Google’s Bard from the other ChatGPT alternatives you can use today? Here’s everything you need to know.
What is Google’s Bard AI?
Google’s Bard is a conversational AI chatbot, similar to ChatGPT and Bing Chat. It relies on generative AI technology, which means it can create brand new text that has never existed before.
Bard’s primary use-cases include the ability to help with creative tasks, explaining complex topics, and generally distilling information from various sources on the internet. It can also handle nuanced queries like finding recipes tailored to the ingredients you have in your fridge. That isn’t something you can do with Google Search alone today, although you can also enable Google’s generative search experience.
Bard transforms Google from a humble search engine to a capable virtual assistant.
In its announcement blog post, Google said we could use the chatbot to “learn more about the best strikers in football right now, and then get drills to build your skills” or “explain new discoveries from NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope to a 9-year-old.”
Beyond simple questions, you can also ask for opinions like “Is piano or guitar easier to learn and how much practice does each need?” These open-ended questions can be difficult to answer even for a human, requiring at least a few minutes of research. Google says that Bard can condense information from dozens of web pages into just a handful of paragraphs.
While Bard may appear in mainstream Google products in the future, that’s not the case currently. For now, you’ll need to visit a specific website to access Bard, similar to ChatGPT.
How does Google Bard work?
As mentioned earlier, Google’s Bard chatbot shares some similarities with ChatGPT. Both use a large language model at their core and have been optimized for open-ended conversations. However, they do not use the same model — ChatGPT uses GPT-3.5 and GPT-4, while Bard uses Google’s own PaLM 2 model.
Bard uses a different language model compared to ChatGPT, which may affect how well it works.
The problem with large language models like PaLM 2 and ChatGPT is that even though they can generate text remarkably well, the quality of responses varies wildly. Why? Because the chatbot’s ability to generate text depends on its training data. For example, ChatGPT has a knowledge cut-off date of 2021. If you ask about events that took place after, it may respond with completely made-up information. Likewise, any biases in the training data can also lead to skewed responses.
These two limitations likely explain why Google has taken so long to bring Bard to market, especially versus long-tested rivals like OpenAI’s GPT models. Bard could potentially generate inaccurate but authoritative-sounding answers, which could then lead to the spread of misinformation. In fact, this exact situation has already played out. Google’s stock tumbled when the company released an official demo video that showed Bard making a factual error. So it’s not surprising that even when Google began rolling out access to Bard, the company added a heavy dose of disclaimers.
What is PaLM 2?
PaLM stands for Pathways Language Model. In plain English, it’s a machine learning model that’s been trained on text samples and optimized to predict words and sentences. The result is a conversational chatbot that speaks like a human.
PaLM 2 is Google's language model that it has developed in-house and behind closed doors.
According to an older Google Research blog post, the company’s language models have three key objectives: quality, safety, and groundedness. In a nutshell, these goals help the chatbot generate responses that make logical sense and sound interesting in the context of a prompt. So for example, Bard will never respond with something generic like “I see” or “I’m glad to hear that”.
To improve the factual accuracy score, Google has also given Bard the ability to seek information from external sources. In other words, it can search the internet in real-time to augment its responses.
How to use Google Bard AI?
Google has now opened up access to Bard to the public, meaning you can now use it for free. The only requirement is a Google account, which you probably have already. And after a slow start, Bard is now available in over 180 countries and dozens of languages.
So how does one get started? For now, you’ll have to visit bard.google.com every single time. Google hasn’t created a smartphone app for the chatbot yet, although that may arrive at some point down the line.
Bard is now globally available and free to use, just like ChatGPT.
You may wonder why Google hasn’t advertised Bard as much even with all of these developments. It’s likely because Bard will cost Google a lot of money in computational resources to operate. According to some estimates, each chatbot response will cost the company ten times as much as a regular search. Limiting Bard’s visibility and usage to a small number of users could help the company scale these costs over time.
Bard AI vs ChatGPT: How do they compare?
The biggest difference between Bard and ChatGPT is that Google’s chatbot has access to live information on the internet. That’s unlike ChatGPT, which only has access to the text in its training data collected prior to 2021. You can use ChatGPT plugins to improve response accuracy, but that comes at a rather premium $20 per month cost.
Bard may also fit into various non-search Google products like Android, Chrome OS, Gmail, Docs, and even the Chrome web browser in the future. Microsoft, for example, has already integrated Bing Chat into the Edge web browser, Skype chats, and the Teams app. Google, meanwhile, has only launched Duet AI for Workspace so far.
Google's Bard chatbot only offers one major advantage over ChatGPT right now.
The other difference relates to their language capabilities — Bard has given us our first taste of Google’s language models. So far, virtually all AI chatbots (including ChatGPT and Bing Chat) have relied on some variation of OpenAI’s GPT-3.5 and GPT-4 models instead. In our comparison of Bard vs ChatGPT, we found that both chatbots perform well but ChatGPT does have the upper hand in many areas.
Most importantly, I’ve found that Google’s Bard chatbot delivers shorter responses than ChatGPT. Google says this is intentional as it helps users find what they’re looking for faster. So if you need to write up a long essay or email, ChatGPT’s higher character limit may offer a better result. That said, Bing Chat did gain a “Creative” mode with longer responses so we hope Google follows suit in the future.
Google has released its Bard chatbot to the general public and anyone with an account can now use it.