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What went wrong with Google's ChatGPT rival Bard?

The James Webb telescope explores deep space
Google's AI chatbot Bard got a question about the James Web telescope wrong, leading to ridicule and wiping out $100bn from parent Alphabet's stock market value. Illustration: NASA/Getty (Paopano via Getty Images)

Google's alternative to ChatGPT, called Bard, has been called out for giving inaccurate information in a demonstration that was meant to show off its artificial intelligence capabilities. Bard's error wiped $100bn (£82bn) off Google's parent company Alphabet (GOOGL) as shares plunged by 7.44% on Wednesday.

Google had shared an example of Bard answering the question "What new discoveries from the James Webb Space Telescope can I tell my 9-year-old about?"

But the generative-AI, which is Google's response to the Microsoft-backed ChatGPT, revealed a glaring error by incorrectly stating that the James Webb Space Telescope took the "very first pictures" of an exoplanet outside our solar system.


Read more: Microsoft's ChatGPT investment could create 'game-changer' AI search engine

The first image of an exoplanet was actually taken in 2003, by the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope. The James Webb Space Telescope’s first snap of an exoplanet was released only last year.

This is a damning slip-up for a product that Google is hoping will ensure its dominance as the world's premier internet search engine.

Google is watching Microsoft (MSFT) closely, after the latter said that AI content generator-tool ChatGPT would be integrated within its Bing search engine.

On Tuesday, Microsoft announced that its Edge web-browser and Bing search engine would have ChatGPT's artificial intelligence capabilities baked into every user's experience.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said: "All computer interaction is going to mediated with an artificially intelligent agent helping you, a co-pilot that is going to be there across every application."

Read more: How to master using the new AI tool ChatGPT

He added: "Its a new day and paradigm in internet search, and the race starts today in terms of what you are going to expect."

If this integration of AI-tools with internet search engines results in a global paradigm shift in the way people search online, it could have a significant disruption to Google's current advertisement revenue-based business model.

With its botched demonstration of Bard, Google has revealed it is reacting in haste to Microsoft's integration of AI into its Bing search engine.

Read more: Microsoft’s Bing is the first threat to Google’s search dominance in decades

The company was quick to try and minimise the reputational damage after the chat-bot's erroneous response. In the fall-out, Google dodged criticism by highlighting the significance of its "Trusted Tester" program, and the need for all artificial intelligence tools to go through a similar quality control procedure to guarantee their accuracy and reliability.

Concerns about the risks of releasing AI systems prematurely has been a major concern, one that Google gave as a reason for releasing their Bard application after Microsoft-backed ChatGPT.

Google's Bard and ChatGPT are known as Large Language Models and allow 'artificial intelligence' to generate content on request via a trawl of large data sets, in a matter of seconds. These generative-AI tools can produce haiku, jokes, corporate emails, business plans, fix computer code, write academic essays and even pieces of original fiction in the style of any writer you want, from Joyce and Dostoyevsky, to Shakespeare. But the content that is generated is routinely peppered with factual errors.

While writing this article, I asked ChatGPT who Sam Bankman-Fried was, the answer it gave: "Sam Bankman-Fried is known for his expertise in financial markets and his successful career in algorithmic trading." The product is obviously behind the times.

Fact-checking every response from both ChatGPT and Bard could become so laborious to make these products not worth the time invested to ensure accuracy.

Read more: How ChatGPT could lead to 'mass unemployment' – The Crypto Mile

Referring to the new chatbot's capabilities, Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai in a blog-post released Monday said: "Bard can be an outlet for creativity, and a launchpad for curiosity, helping you to explain new discoveries from NASA's James Webb Space Telescope to a nine-year-old, or learn more about the best strikers in football right now, and then get drills to build your skills."

He added: "It's a really exciting time to be working on these technologies as we translate deep research and breakthroughs into products that truly help people.

"That's the journey we've been on with large language models."

Bard is not yet available to the wider public, but rival ChatGPT now has over 100 million users and is the recipient of a $10bn (£8.3bn) investment from Microsoft.

Microsoft has stated that ChatGPT's technology will operate as a user's 'co-pilot' as they navigate the web, whilst Google has hailed its Bard alternative as "an outlet for creativity, and a launchpad for curiosity".

Watch: How ChatGPT could lead to 'mass technological unemployment' - The Crypto Mile

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