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HomeTechGoogle didn’t rush Bard chatbot to beat Microsoft, executive says

Google didn’t rush Bard chatbot to beat Microsoft, executive says

A senior Google executive disputed suggestions that the company rushed to release its artificial intelligence-based chatbot Bard earlier this year to beat a similar offering from rival Microsoft Corp.

Testifying in Google’s defense at the Justice Department’s antitrust trial against the search giant, Elizabeth Reid, a vice president of search, acknowledged that Bard gave “a wrong answer” during its public unveiling in February. But she rejected the contention by government lawyer David Dahlquist that Bard was “rushed” out after Microsoft announced it was integrating generative AI into its own Bing search engine.

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“I don’t think you can make that conclusion,” Reid said. “Microsoft’s announcement also had several errors in it. The technology is very nascent. It makes mistakes. That’s why we’ve been hesitant to put it forward.”

In its landmark competition trial, the Justice Department has been seeking to show how Google maintains its monopoly in search by cutting off rivals such as Microsoft. Government lawyers have been seeking to show that Google’s dominance also meant it intentionally delayed technological advances if they could threaten its position.

Reid became a vice president of search at Google, a unit of Alphabet Inc., in 2021 after years working on Google Maps and local search features. She testified about the company’s work on developing local search and its recent move into AI with the Search Generative Experience, a limited version powered by generative AI. Several Google executives have testified at the trial about the company’s efforts to incorporate AI and machine learning into its products.

Google announced the release of Bard on Monday, Feb. 6, with Chief Executive Officer Sundar Pichai calling it “an important next step on our AI journey.” The next day, Microsoft said it was integrating technology from Open AI’s ChatGPT into Bing.

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Google’s public demonstration of Bard underwhelmed investors. In one instance, Bard was asked about new discoveries from the James Webb Space Telescope. The chatbot incorrectly stated the telescope was used to take the first pictures of a planet outside the Earth’s solar system.While the Webb telescope was the first to photograph one particular planet outside the Earth’s solar system, NASA first photographed a so-called exoplanet in 2004. The mistake led to a sharp fall in Alphabet’s stock.

“It’s a very subtle language difference,” Reid said in explaining the error in her testimony Wednesday. “The amount of effort to ensure that a paragraph is correct is quite a lot of work.”

“The challenges of fact-checking are hard,” she added.

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