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The Chatbot Wars Begin!

Microsoft took the next step in its ChatGPT strategy this week by actually putting the conversational AI technology developed by OpenAI, in which it is reportedly investing billions, to work in record time in its Bing search engine and Edge web browser. Bing has a new "Ask me anything…" box and a link to an introduction to "the new Bing."

"It’s a new day in search," Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said during a press event, "it’s a new paradigm for search, rapid innovation is going to come." And he added, "The race starts today, and we’re going to move and move fast."

But Google stole a bit of Redmond's thunder with the virtually simultaneous introduction of "Bard," its own conversational AI service. No press event, but the blog post by Google CEO Sundar Pichai spread like wildfire.

"We’ve been working on an experimental conversational AI service, powered by LaMDA, that we’re calling Bard," Google CEO Sundar Pichai said in a blog post. "And today, we’re taking another step forward by opening it up to trusted testers ahead of making it more widely available to the public in the coming weeks."

LaMDA (Language Model for Dialogue Applications) is a large language model that Google unveiled two years ago. ChatGPT (Chat Generative Pre-trained Transformer) is built on GPT-3, which is a third-generation neural network machine learning model developed by OpenAI and trained using Internet data. What's interesting to me is that three were built on "transformers."

A transformer is a deep learning model that was actually introduced by Google in 2017. It's based on a self-attention mechanism that directly models relationships among all words in a sentence, regardless of their respective positions, rather than one-by-one in order. This capability made transformers much faster than recurrent neural networks (RNNs), the leading approach back then to natural language processing (NLP). Google introduced its open-source machine-learning framework, BERT (Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers) in 2019 to better understand the context of words in search queries.

OpenAI researchers published a paper on generative pre-training in June 2018, in which they showed how a generative model of language is able to acquire world knowledge and process long-range dependencies by pre-training on a diverse corpus with long stretches of contiguous text. GPTs are unsupervised transformer language models, which means they use machine learning to analyze a sequence of words and other data to write text predictively and essentially elaborate on examples to produce original output, such as newspaper articles, essays, business reports, and short stories.

OpenAI is truly an organization to watch. It has developed software that can beat humans at complex strategy games, as well as the image generator, Dall-E, and its chatbot has captured the world's attention.

“I think this technology is going to reshape pretty much every software category,” Nadella said at the press event.

And while Redmond has begun the work of integrating this technology into its products, Google just made an announcement that its conversational AI service would be available soon for testing.

"We’re releasing it initially with our lightweight model version of LaMDA," Pichai said. "This much smaller model requires significantly less computing power, enabling us to scale to more users, allowing for more feedback. We’ll combine external feedback with our own internal testing to make sure Bard’s responses meet a high bar for quality, safety and groundedness in real-world information. We’re excited for this phase of testing to help us continue to learn and improve Bard’s quality and speed.

People have been telling me that ChatGPT will be the end of Google, and the search engine giant does seem a bit behind that other giant up in Redmond. But the Bard announcement show that it's definitely not resting on its laurels. And remember, Alphabet's  "Google" isn't just the golden child of a global organization with effectively limitless resources. It's a verb.

Posted by John K. Waters on February 8, 2023