Microsoft is revamping its search products with more artificial intelligence, using technology behind the wildly popular ChatGPT, as tech companies race to take advantage of increasingly powerful AI tools.
The company detailed its plans at a special event on Tuesday, saying it would work with OpenAI, the startup behind the ChatGPT tool, to upgrade its Bing search engine and Edge web browser and enhance the information available.
The announcement comes a day after Google revealed it is releasing its own artificial intelligence chatbot, called Bard, in response to the huge success of ChatGPT. Microsoft is staking its future on AI through billions of dollars of investment and seeking to capitalize on the worldwide excitement surrounding ChatGPT, a tool that’s awakened millions of people to the possibilities of the latest AI technology, and is already changing how people gather information.
“This technology is going to reshape pretty much every software category,” said Satya Nadella, the chief executive of Microsoft, in a briefing for reporters at Microsoft headquarters in Redmond, Washington.
The move is meant to rival Google and potentially claim vast returns from tools that speed up all manner of content creation, automating tasks if not jobs themselves. Shares of Microsoft rose 3.2% in afternoon US trading to $265.10 a share.
The power of so-called generative AI that can create virtually any text or image dawned on the public last year with the release of ChatGPT. Its human-like responses to any prompt have given people new ways to think about the possibilities of marketing, writing term papers or disseminating news, or even how to query information online.
Yusuf Mehdi, Microsoft’s consumer chief marketing officer, said at the briefing that the Bing search engine would be powered by AI and run on a new, next-generation “large language model” that is more powerful than ChatGPT. A chatbot will help users refine queries more easily, give more relevant, up-to-date results, and even make shopping easier.
Mehdi said a public preview of the new Bing launched on Tuesday for desktop users who sign up for it, but the technology will scale to millions of users in coming weeks. Everyone can try a limited number of queries, he said.
As an example of how it works, Mehdi asked the new Bing to compare the most influential Mexican painters and it provided typical search results, but also, on the right side of the page, compiled a fact box summarizing details about Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo and José Clemente Orozco. In another example, he quizzed it on 1990s-era rap, showing its ability to distinguish between the song Jump by Kris Kross and Jump Around by House of Pain. And he used it to show how it could plan a vacation or help with shopping.
The strengthening partnership with the ChatGPT maker OpenAI has been years in the making, starting with a $1bn investment from Microsoft in 2019 that led to the development of a powerful supercomputer specifically built to train the San Francisco startup’s AI models.
Microsoft is now aiming to market OpenAI’s technology, including ChatGPT, to its cloud customers and add the same power to its suite of products.
Google has taken note. On Monday it unveiled Bard, and the company is planning to release AI for its search engine that can synthesize material when no simple answer exists online.
Microsoft’s decision to update its Edge browser will intensify competition with Google’s Chrome browser.
The rivalry in search is now among the industry’s biggest, said Daniel Ives, an analyst with Wedbush Securities.
“Microsoft is looking to win this AI battle,” he said in a research note on Monday.
The shift to making search engines more conversational – able to confidently answer questions rather than offering links to other websites – could change the advertising-fueled search business, but also poses risks if the AI systems don’t get their facts right. Their opaqueness also makes it hard to source back to the original human-made images and texts they have in effect memorized, though the new Bing includes annotations that link to sources.
“Bing is powered by AI, so surprises and mistakes are possible,” is a message that appears at the bottom of the preview version of Bing’s new homepage. “Make sure to check the facts.”
By making it a destination for ChatGPT-like conversations, Microsoft could invite more users to give Bing a try, though the new version so far is limited to desktops and does not yet have an interface for smartphones – where most people now access the internet.
On the surface, at least, a Bing integration seems far different from what OpenAI has in mind for its technology. Appearing at Microsoft’s event, OpenAI’s CEO, Sam Altman, said the “the new Bing experience looks fantastic” and is based in part on learnings from its GPT line of large language models. He said a key reason for his startup’s Microsoft partnership was to help get OpenAI technology “into the hands of millions of people”.
Source: The Guardian