Microsoft has announced a new version of its search engine Bing, powered by an improved version of the same AI technology that underpins chatbot ChatGPT. The company is launching the product along with an improved version of its Edge browser, promising that the two will deliver a new experience for browsing the web and finding information online.
“It’s a new day in the search,” Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said at an event announcing the product. We are currently following the event live and adding more information to this story as we go along.
Microsoft argued that the search paradigm has not changed in 20 years and that about half of all searches do not answer user questions. The advent of conversational AI could change this, the company says, by delivering information more fluidly and faster.
The “new Bing,” as Microsoft calls it, offers a chat feature, where users can ask questions and get answers in natural language. The feature uses an updated version of the AI language model built by OpenAI that supports ChatGPT – known as the “Prometheus model” – which provides more up-to-date information with annotated answers.
The announcement of the new Bing comes amid a wave of AI activity from Microsoft and rival Google. Since ChatGPT launched on the web last November, interest in AI text generation has exploded. Microsoft, which works closely with ChatGPT creator OpenAI, is looking to capitalize on this excitement and has already announced how this technology will be integrated into its suite of office software, tackling tasks such as meeting summaries and line auto-completion.
Google, meanwhile, has been caught off guard by what some say is a paradigm shift in how users find information on the web. The launch of ChatGPT reportedly sparked a “code red” within the search giant, calling on long-absent founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin to help deal with what could be a threat to the company’s biggest source of revenue.
In an effort to avoid Microsoft’s announcement today, Google unveiled its own ChatGPT yesterday, called Bard. CEO Sundar Pichai described the software as an “experimental conversational AI service”, but noted that it is still being tested by a small group of users and will only be launched more widely in the coming weeks.
The AI-powered future of search
However, the bigger question for both Microsoft and Google is: are AI chatbots even a good replacement for search? How does this technology fit in with existing methods of finding information online, and what happens if mistakes are made?
This last point is perhaps the most important, as AI language systems like ChatGPT have a well-documented tendency to present false information as fact. Although researchers have warned about this problem for yearsthere have been countless examples of AI-generated errors since the launch of ChatGPT on the web – from chatbots making up biographical details about real people to fabricating academic papers and giving dangerous medical advice.
However, this kind of AI stupidity is already a problem. The rise of chatbots is bringing new attention to the problem, but Google has been using AI more and more to summarize web pages for years. This has led to a number high-profile mistakes, as Google responds to a query “had a seizure, now what?” with the advice “hold the person or try to stop their movements” – the exact opposite of what should happen in this scenario.
Beyond the problem of disinformation, AI-accelerated search could unbalance the ecosystem that supports the wider search market. If AI collects information without directing users to the source and generating revenue for the creator, it hurts the incentives for third parties to publish accurate information online.
These and other problems will be encountered by Microsoft, Google and others as they navigate the brave new world of AI search, but in the meantime, the tech giants just seem to be rushing to launch products before their rivals get there first.
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