Andrew Raso March 12, 2023

No, not The Bard, that’s Shakespeare. Just Bard

Google Bard is here, and while you may have heard the name, you may also be wondering exactly what it is and how it works. As with any Google service, Bard is bound to have ramifications for the tech industry, and represents another step in the quest to develop better artificial intelligence. Let’s break down exactly what Google Bard is and what it means for the future of Google AI.    

What is Google Bard?

First thing’s first: Google Bard is the tech giant’s response to various large language model chatbots, the most popular example being ChatGPT. Since the launch of ChatGPT and other AI chatbots, the pressure has been on Google’s AI division to respond with a similar product, or at least give consumers and investors an idea of where their AI research and development was at. In a nod to Shakespeare himself, Bard is designed to keep up its end of the conversation, replying to questions and prompts much like the chatbots we’ve seen before. 

When was Google Bard announced?

In February 2023, Google and Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai announced that Google Bard would be launching as an experimental tool for ‘trusted testers’. The announcement left a lot of questions unanswered for now, but here’s what we know so far. 

All you need to know about Google Bard

There have been plenty of trends and speculated uses for artificial intelligence, but what many tech firms are currently focused on is a conversational chatbot model, which uses huge data sets of language to learn from and predict responses that mimic human conversation and speech patterns. Google Bard is the latest release to follow this trend.   

How does Google Bard work?

Like other chatbots, Google Bard is a narrow AI, meaning it’s theoretically very good at performing a specific set of functions. In this case, finding factual answers to queries and questions, and giving them in a conversational way. Bard is powered by Google’s Language Model for Dialogue Applications (LaMDA). 

It’s no surprise that one of the advantages Google AI has over its competitors is its access to data: Bard has one of the largest data sets for a large language model to learn from, giving Bard a potential edge over the competition as a powerful tool for users. At this stage, Bard has been initially released using what Google calls a  ‘lightweight model version of LaMDA’.

Bard will work like you’re having a conversation. Type your query or question into a search bar, and voilà! Google Bard will present you with a conversational response that has all the answers you need. 

 What can you do with Google Bard?

We don’t have all the details about Bard’s full capabilities yet, so we’re not sure whether the Google AI will eventually be able to produce long form texts like reports, poetry and basic computer code like ChatGPT currently does. For now, the core feature is all about making queries simple: ask Google Bard a question, and it will distil the information into a concise, digestible answer for you.    

One of the most exciting features about Bard is that it promises to offer deeper insights and more contextual understanding than any search engine currently offers. Right now, you can Google ‘how many strings on a guitar?’ and get a solid answer, but what you can’t do is ask Google how long it takes to learn the guitar, whether it’s quicker than learning piano, and whether the time is worth it. In their announcement, Google AI promised that Bard will have the capability to synthesise different opinions and perspectives on topics like this, and give you a succinct summary. 

Who can use Google Bard?

At the moment, the trial phase of Google Bard is restricted to ‘trusted testers’ as part of a rigorous process to combine internal testing with external feedback, eventually fine-tuning the bot for wide release. It’s not certain who makes up the trusted network, but a safe bet is that some tech reporters will receive early access to the service in order to put it through its paces. 

There haven’t been any hard and fast promises from Google, but the way they describe their service does seem to indicate that eventually, Google Bard will be for everyone. If it works the way Google’s AI department says it will, then the Bard is a replacement for the current way the public uses Google as a search engine. 

How will Bard display search results?

Again, the answer to this is based on a brief demonstration from a tech announcement, but it seems that Bard gives a response to a query which reads like dialogue, and is followed by summary dot points which link out to search results, or followed by a ‘Read More’ section on mobile which contains those links. 

What are the implications for website traffic?

It’s certainly a radically different way to see results than the classic scroll down the first page, but in theory, this makes Google more usable and genuinely informative than it has been. There’s plenty of discussion online about the ways Google has changed as a search engine, and why it isn’t as effective as it was in the days of Web 1.0 and early Web 2.0. In much the same way Google’s preview feature now summarises information from a source on its own page, Bard potentially reduces click-through rates in favour of an integrated response which keeps users on Google.  

If and when Google Bard actually gets a wide release, the implications for web traffic are potentially huge. Google knows that its value as a tool to help businesses become more visible is significant, so whatever changes Bard would usher in, they would need to still reward domain authorities, and drive traffic in some way. 

Google Bard vs ChatGPT

A lot of talk about Google’s AI Bard has so far compared it to ChatGPT. There are a few reasons for this; firstly, the announcement of Bard in February seemed to be a pretty direct response from the tech giant to the impact ChatGPT has had within the tech world. 

It was almost inevitable that Google would announce some kind of service or update based on the current climate. Since 2021, they’ve been working on their language LaMDA, but consumers had yet to see much come out of the dialogue trained model. 

With tech reporters breathlessly recounting their experiences with ChatGPT and even their suspicions that the narrow AI language bot was sentient (it is absolutely not), the time was ripe for Google to remind the market and the media that it has an enormous amount of resources invested in the future of artificial intelligence.  

So far, it’s too early to produce a real comparison of the two; and until we see Google Bard in action, we won’t know whether the claims about its capabilities are accurate. So far, there are a few differences that jump out: 

  • ChatGPT is a subscription only model backed by Bing and Microsoft’s OpenAI. If we go off the announcement by Sundar Pichai, Google Bard will be a feature for everyone to use within the search engine. 
  • ChatGPT promises to create whole texts for the user, complete with references and stylistic features of the form (stylistically it’s pretty good, and factually it often makes huge mistakes). Google Bard also made a factual error in a GIF used during its presentation, but it seems to be aimed at giving you a deeper, more contextual understanding of a topic you’ve searched for, rather than being a word processor. 
  • Google Bard only uses a lightweight version of LaMDA now, but it has the best potential language modelling and data set in the world. If Google AI can get it working with the full power of LaMDA, it could provide a serious edge. 
  • Both ChatGPT and Google Bard have a sophisticated grasp of human language and dialogue, they’re designed to sound like real people. So far, this has caused some panic in some corners, with people feeling like they’re really ‘alive’. Despite the witty dialogue, both tools are narrow AI models that do one thing very well: sound like people. They’re far removed from being a true general artificial intelligence, and they’re certainly not alive or self-aware. It will be interesting to see how Google tempers this highly realistic dialogue, if indeed Google Bard is slated for general public use.  

There’s a lot about Bard we still don’t know, but with Google’s announcement of the service and its continued investment in artificial intelligence, one thing’s for sure: the tech industry has decided that AI is the future, and we’ll be seeing it used more and more in our daily interactions online. Want a partner that can help you with the brave new frontier of AI and search engine optimisation? Talk to us about how our SEO services can help you in the long term!

About the Author

Andrew Raso

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