Alphabet, the parent company of Google, is initiating the roll-out of its artificial intelligence (AI) chatbot, Bard, in Europe and Brazil, representing a significant development since its March launch in the US and the UK. This move escalates the competition with Microsoft’s AI chatbot, ChatGPT, both of which are generative AI tools capable of responding to inquiries in a human-like manner.
However, Bard’s launch in the EU faced initial delay due to privacy concerns raised by the Irish Data Protection Commission, the key data regulator in the bloc. The Commission contended that Alphabet failed to offer sufficient details about how the AI tool would safeguard the privacy of European users, a factor that had stalled the product’s EU launch. In response, the company met with regulators to provide assurances on issues related to transparency, choice, and control.
Amar Subramanya, the Engineering Vice President of Bard, stated in a briefing that users would have the option to opt-out of their data collection, but refrained from commenting on the potential development of a Bard app. Emphasizing Bard as an experimental initiative, Subramanya mentioned, “We want to be bold and responsible.”
Bard has also undergone enhancements, which are globally applicable, including a speaking feature that enables the chatbot to vocalize its responses and the capability to respond to prompts containing images. Google’s Senior Product Director, Jack Krawczyk, announced in a blog post that “Starting today, you can collaborate with Bard in over 40 languages, including Arabic, Chinese, German, Hindi, and Spanish.” Additionally, users can modify the tone and style of Bard’s responses, pin or rename conversations, export code to more places, and utilize images in prompts.
The growing excitement around generative AI has led international tech leaders to demand a temporary halt to their development. Opinions differ wildly about AI’s potential impacts: it could either spell doom for humanity or provide solutions to pressing global issues like climate change, or perhaps even both. In the past half-year, billions of dollars have been invested by companies, hoping to exponentially increase their advertising and cloud revenue.
Meanwhile, tech giants continue to experiment with AI. A month-old start-up, Mistral AI, raised £86m in seed funding to build and train large language models. Elon Musk also announced the establishment of an AI start-up named xAI, comprising several engineers who have previously worked at OpenAI and Google. Musk has been vocal about his belief that AI development should be paused and regulated.
In another development, American AI company Anthropic unveiled a chatbot named Claude 2 as a competitor to ChatGPT. This bot can condense novel-sized text blocks and is based on a “Constitutional AI” safety method, a principle-based approach for assessing the text it generates.
However, the novelty appeal of AI chatbots appears to be dwindling. Recent data show a decline in monthly traffic to ChatGPT’s website and unique visitors for the first time in June.
Meanwhile, Google is dealing with a new class action lawsuit in the US over alleged misuse of users’ personal information for training Bard. The complaint, filed in San Francisco’s federal court, accuses Google of unauthorized data scraping from websites, violating privacy and property rights. The plaintiffs’ attorney, Ryan Clarkson, stated, “Google does not own the internet, it does not own our creative works… or anything else simply because we share it online.”
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