As consumer attention and enthusiasm swirl around generative artificial intelligence (AI) and chatbots in particular, the pace of development shows no signs of slowing down. Google is now giving its chatbot – Bard – a set of important and far-reaching updates, including more Indian and global language knowledge, replies that can be read, saving a history of your conversations with Bard and the ability to export generated Python code using Bard (a feature that was also enabled recently).
In what is safe to class as Bard’s biggest update to date, milestones so far have included Bard’s official unveiling earlier this year, although the pivotal moment came in the summer when Bard has been made available to all users in 180 countries. This also coincided with the move to using the PaLM 2 Large Language Model, or LLM.
Starting today, Bard will work with 40 more global languages, in addition to existing support for English, Japanese, and Korean. Indian languages will include Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Bengali, Canadian, Malayalam, Marathi, Gujarati and Urdu. Global language support now includes Arabic, Chinese, German, and Spanish.
Bard has also been deployed in 59 new countries, including within the European Union (EU) and Brazil.
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“This is part of our bold and responsible approach to AI. We have proactively worked with a number of policymakers, regulators and experts on this rollout, and as we continue to evolve, we will keep our AI principles as our guide,” says Amar Subramanya, Vice President engineering at Google, in a briefing that HT was part of.
These updates come at a time when Google Bard is competing with OpenAI’s ChatGPT and Microsoft’s Bing chatbot, which has similar underpinnings to ChatGPT. Bard’s expanded feature set gives him more tools in battle.
As an extension of the text-to-image feature that was already part of Bard, the reverse will also be true now. A user will be able to enter an image for Bard to search (Google Lens integration is also available). The generative AI will attempt to generate details about what it decodes from the image you shared with Bard. Think of it like Google Lens, but potentially much smarter.
“Last weekend I had this chore cleaning one of the offices in our house and I ended up taking a picture and going to Bard. Hey can you give me some ideas on how I can declutter this desk, it gave me a bunch of suggestions and it was great to get help in a moment that mattered,” Subramanya shares.
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Google is also enabling chat history in Bard, something conspicuously missing until now, which will allow users to review previous chats and replies. There will also be an option to choose the tone and style of responses you want from Bard – shorter, longer, professional or casual. For now, this boost will be limited to English chats, but expect broader support in the coming months.
Microsoft also has similar response options for Bing – more creative, more balanced, more accurate, although the differences may not be so apparent in all questions a user may send.
The Bard chatbot, which until now has focused primarily on text responses, will now also be able to speak these responses. “If you’re generating a poem, you might want to listen to what’s been generated rather than just reading it,” says Subramanya. “It’s also sometimes super useful to hear a pronunciation,” he adds.
Recently, Google Bard embraced the ability to generate Python code for application and software developers. Now Bard will also be able to export it to Replit, a tool that allows developers to run code live in a web browser.
Google Bard, which is still in the experimental stage (and Google points this out again) is available on the web browser, but unlike Microsoft Bing and ChatGPT (in an early stage of rollout), does not have apps for Android phones or Apple iPhones for now. In fact, Bing is also integrated with Edge web browser apps and the SwiftKey keyboard app for smartphones.
At the Google I/O developer conference earlier this summer, Google hinted at its focus on integrating Bard into Google’s vast set of tools, including Google Lens, Mail and Search.
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Microsoft in March confirmed that the Bing chatbot had registered 100 million active users within weeks of its consumer launch. Google has yet to release official statistics on Bard’s active user base, but insists that the more user feedback they get, the better they can improve Bard.
Over the summer, Bing’s importance in developing the Microsoft 365 Copilot tool was highlighted during the keynote at the company’s annual developer conference. It will arrive with integration into Windows 11 and Microsoft 365 apps, including the office suite, later this year.
Google is looking to connect Bard to its own suite of apps, including Docs, Drive, Gmail and Maps. There will also be third-party integrations, including with Adobe Firefly to help users generate high-quality AI images.
“The more people use it and give us feedback, the more opportunity we have to improve this model and the generative AI. We will be able to figure out how we can actually bring it to more users in a way safe and responsible,” says Subramanya.
New features defined for Bard are rolling out to all users, although some features may arrive in batches.