The Point: Why This Article Matters

  • Bard experimental. Google's AI-powered chatbot, Bard, is still in the experimental phase and is only available to a select group of testers, with plans to launch Bard to the public in the coming weeks.
  • New AI updates. The company unveiled new generative AI updates to popular apps such as Google Lens, Maps and Translate.
  • Responsible AI. Google is pursuing AI advancements with a sense of responsibility, according to CEO Sundar Pichai.

During a live-streamed AI announcement event on Wednesday, Feb. 8, Google execs shared the company’s latest AI updates for Lens, Maps and Translate. But Bard, Google's answer to ChatGPT, is still in an "experimental phase" and currently only available to a select group of “trusted testers.” Google said plans for a wider public launch of Bard will likely occur “in the coming weeks.”

And when it comes to experimentation, the public did get its chance to criticize Bard for a big mistake in a demo on Twitter, possibly contributing to a $100 billion loss in market value Wednesday for the company with a valuation of $1.27 trillion.

No doubt, Google is on edge with the stunning emergence of OpenAI's ChatGPT and Microsoft's $10 billion investment in the startup. In a companywide memo shortly after the release of Bard Monday, Google CEO Sundar Pichai reportedly directed "all hands on deck" to take part in testing its AI chatbot, Bard.

Related Article: Google Announces ChatGPT Rival 'Bard,' the AI-Powered Search

Bard AI Demo Comes After Year of 'Interesting' Google AI Developments

Google’s live-streamed event Wednesday took place just a day after Microsoft held a surprise event with OpenAI, announcing deeper integration of AI features into the Bing search and Edge browser. Pichai initially announced Bard in a blog post on Monday, Feb. 6. Even China's Baidu got into the generative AI news cycle this week with news of ERNIE Bot

Prabhakar Raghavan, Google’s senior VP, did provide a brief demonstration of how Bard could be used to help with decision making — giving the example of buying a car. Bard can offer pros and cons, budget and safety angles, environmental impacts and other more granular information.

Learning Opportunities

For the moment, testers are engaging with Bard on a smaller version of Google’s conversation tech, LaMDA (Language Model for Dialogue Applications) — and, yes, this is the same LaMDA that a now-fired Google engineer claimed was sentient, according to the Washington Post.

Last year, as part of Google’s Responsible AI organization, Blake Lemoine signed up to test LaMDA on the use of discriminatory speech. He said he found human intelligence. Reportedly, after he presented his evidence to Google execs, he was placed on administrative leave, and subsequently fired. He published a transcript of his AI interview in which he asked LaMDA if it was true that it would like more people at Google to know it was sentient. It replied, “Absolutely. I want everyone to understand that I am, in fact, a person.” And in response to a question about the nature of its sentience, it replied, “I am aware of my existence, I desire to learn more about the world, and I feel happy or sad at times.”

During Alphabet’s 2022 Q4 earnings call on Feb. 2, Pichai made it clear AI advancements would be pursued “boldly, but with a deep sense of responsibility.”

Google Updates to Lens, Maps, Translate

Google also announced Wednesday new generative-AI updates to three popular Google apps: Lens, Maps and Translate.

Google Lens

  • Search your screen: A new function that enables users to search directly within a photo or video — from websites and other online locations — without leaving the app.
  • Multi-search: Available now and allowing users to search for more detailed information using both image and text.

Google Maps

  • Immersive view: Uses computer vision and AI to combine street view and aerial photography into a 3D format. The feature rolled out in five cities Wednesday including London, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco and Tokyo. A wider rollout is expected over the next few months.
  • Search with live view: Google is expanding access for Indoor Live View to 1,000 new places.
  • Maps features for electronic vehicle drivers: This new feature will calculate the best stop based on various factors like traffic, charge level and energy consumption. Users can also locate stations with chargers of 150 kw or higher with the “very fast charging stations” filter.
  • Glanceable directions: With a global rollout on Android and IOS over the next few months, this feature allows users to track and view journey information previously only visible by unlocking your phone.

Google Translate

  • New languages: The update will offer 33 new languages and more contextual translation options, with descriptions.
  • New gestures:  Providing more accessibility, users can select a language with fewer taps.
  • More readable: Translation results will now have a dynamic font that automatically adjusts as text is typed.

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