Let the chatbot games begin!

Per a Monday announcement, search giant Google is officially chasing viral rival ChatGPT with its own version of an artificial intelligence engine that can provide natural language responses to queries from users.

While Google’s development work on so-called large language model, generative artificial intelligence processes have been widely known for some time, Google CEO Sundar Pichai offered details in a blog post about its own chatbot tool, “Bard,” and when the public may begin engaging with the latest AI players.

According to Pichai, access to Bard is currently only being offered to “trusted testers” but will become available to the public sometime “in the coming weeks.”

ChatGPT has created a firestorm of interest and concerns since launching last November thanks to its advanced ability to construct responses to user questions and directions. Bard joins ChatGPT as members of a new generation of AI systems that can converse and generate readable text on demand based on what they’ve learned from a vast database of digital books, online writings and other media.

“Bard seeks to combine the breadth of the world’s knowledge with the power, intelligence and creativity of our large language models,” Pichai wrote in his blog post. “It draws on information from the web to provide fresh, high-quality responses. 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 9-year-old, or learn more about the best strikers in football right now, and then get drills to build your skills.”

Google’s Bard will also, presumably, be able to execute the same tasks that have raised some concerns about how ChatGPT can be put to use, including being able to write student term papers and essays, on essentially any topic, that can escape most current plagiarism detection tools.

The tidal wave of interest that has followed the emergence of ChatGPT is of concern to Google for a number of reasons.

First, ChatGPT developer OpenAI appears to be outpacing Google when it comes to developing AI tools, even though the king of search has pumped billions of dollars into the effort. ChatGPT is just the latest iteration of a series of AI system releases from the Microsoft-backed startup OpenAI, but it was the first one that’s been publicly available, and for free to boot.

The advancement of AI tools also represents a direct challenge, and possible tide shift, when it comes to how we think of and use internet search engines.

Unlike a search engine response to a question, which simply points you to the answer where it already lives on the internet, ChatGPT generates its own original answers based on all the information it has already ingested and assessed. Thus, while Google isn’t going to help you write a sonnet in the style of, say, Hunter S. Thompson, ChatGPT will easily churn that out for you and in just a matter of moments. So, staying on the cutting edge of artificial intelligence advancement is a business survival necessity, as far as Google is concerned.

Pichai recognizes this coming evolution of search in his Bard announcement, noting AI tools will make it “easier for people to get to the heart of what they’re looking for and get things done.”

“When people think of Google, they often think of turning to us for quick factual answers, like ‘how many keys does a piano have?’” Pichai wrote. “But increasingly, people are turning to Google for deeper insights and understanding — like, “is the piano or guitar easier to learn, and how much practice does each need?”

While educators worry over how ChatGPT may be put to use to generate homework assignments, others have noted a plethora of mistakes in some of the AI’s otherwise smoothly constructed responses.

ChatGPT’s emergence has also spawned countless internet rumors and conspiracies including predictions that the system puts humanity on the cusp of a “singularity” event, where a computer program transcends human intelligence, leading to all manner of unpredictable mayhem and madness.

But OpenAI CEO Sam Altman has discounted those fears on numerous occasions, pointing to both the opportunities ChatGPT’s advancements represent as well as warning against overblowing, or over-interpreting, what it all means.

“ChatGPT is incredibly limited, but good enough at some things to create a misleading impression of greatness,” Altman wrote in a December tweet. “It’s a mistake to be relying on it for anything of import right now. It’s a preview of progress; we have lots of work to do on robustness and truthfulness.”