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Big Tech Bets On Artificial Intelligence to Reinvent Internet Search

Published: February 7, 2023
The logo of the U.S. computer and micro-computing company, Microsoft is visible on the facade of its head office on Jan. 25, 2023 in Issy-les-Moulineaux, France. The tech giant will be holding a press conference on Feb. 7 where it’s expected that the company will unveil the “new Bing,” a search engine that exploits the capabilities of OpenAI’s ChatGPT. (Image: Chesnot/Getty Images)

On Feb. 7, Microsoft is expected to announce the integration of its search engine, Bing, with the recently unveiled artificial intelligence (AI) platform ChatGPT. The company announced the event minutes after Google unveiled its ChatGPT rival, Bard and mere hours before China’s Baidu announced its own AI-driven “Erine Bot.”

Microsoft’s event is scheduled to begin at 1PM ET and it’s likely the company will focus on the rumored ChatGPT integration.

The event comes just days after Microsoft redefined its partnership with OpenAI — the company responsible for the development of ChatGPT — with the company investing $10 billion to become OpenAI’s exclusive cloud partner. Microsoft cloud services will now power all OpenAI processes across all products, API services and research. 

Bard, which Google calls an “experimental conversational AI service” is currently only being tested by a limited group, but the company said it will be opened up to the wider public in the coming weeks. 

Microsoft’s integration of ChatGPT appears to have been briefly leaked last week when some Bing users spotted a new chat section with a chatbot-like user interface for obtaining search results from Microsoft’s search engine. 

In response to the leak Microsoft only said that the “new Bing” will provide “complete answers” to real questions. 

It’s rumored that Microsoft will also be seeking ways to integrate ChatGPT into its other products including Word, Powerpoint and Outlook. Recently Microsoft launched Microsoft Teams Premium with features driven by OpenAI.


The race to combine AI with search

ChatGPT was unveiled on Nov. 30 last year by OpenAI and quickly garnered 100 million users, earning it the distinction of being the fastest-growing consumer app in history. 

“We’ve trained a model called ChatGPT which interacts in a conversational way,” the company wrote on its website at the time, adding that, “The dialogue format makes it possible for ChatGPT to answer followup questions, admit its mistakes, challenge incorrect premises, and reject inappropriate requests.”

The AI is the “sibling model” of the company’s InstructGPT. Both InstructGPT and ChatGPT were trained using Reinforcement Learning from Human Feedback (RLHF). 

The tech was quickly recognized for its potential application to internet search which prompted search giant Google and its Chinese counterpart Baidu to race to compete.

On Feb. 6, Google introduced Bard, which according to the tech giant “seeks to combine the breadth of the world’s knowledge with the power, intelligence and creativity of [Google’s] large language models.”

Bard is based on the company’s LaMDA AI, which made headlines last year when a Google engineer went public with claims that it had become sentient. The engineer, Blake Lemoine, was promptly fired after Google said his claims were “wholly unfounded.”

Google says Bard will “distill complex information and multiple perspectives into easy-to-digest formats, so you can quickly understand the big picture and learn more from the web.”

‘Ernie Bot’

Quick on the heels of both Google’s and Microsoft’s announcements, on Feb. 7, Baidu Inc said that its ChatGPT-style project, dubbed “Ernie Bot,” would complete internal testing in March, causing its stock to surge by 15.3 percent, while its U.S. shares soared by 11.2 percent in morning trade. 

Baidu said that Ernie or “Enhanced Representation through Knowledge Integration,” is an AI-powered language model that was first introduced in 2019. The technology has developed since then to be able to perform tasks including language understanding, language generation, and text-to-image generation.

Baidu is not quite ready to integrate Ernie with search, saying that it will initially be offered as a standalone application that will gradually merge into its search engine.