The opening of the Bard chatbot to the general public, online research made more direct and new automated creation tools: Google is inflating its products with generative artificial intelligence (capable of creating content on demand, in everyday language), lagging behind its rival Microsoft.

"We've been primarily an artificial intelligence (AI) company for seven years and we're at a turning point," Sundar Pichai, the head of the Californian group, told thousands of people gathered in its amphitheater in Mountain View.

He highlighted his company's "bold and responsible" approach at the annual new product presentation.

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On the program: new electronic gadgets, including the first folding smartphone in its Pixel range, the Pixel Fold, which opens as a mini-tablet and will be marketed from $ 1,800.

But Google was mostly expected on the AI front. The November release of the ChatGPT interface — designed by California-based startup OpenAI, mostly funded by Microsoft — launched a frantic race for generative AI, between exuberant enthusiasm and apocalyptic concerns.

Google responded with its own interface, Bard, which opened to the public at the end of March. On Wednesday, the company announced that the chatbot was now available in English in 180 countries.

The chatbot will soon be able to converse in 40 languages and must become multimedia, i.e. be able to integrate images into users' questions and answers.

Evolution of the search engine

The world's number one digital advertising company also showed how online search will gradually change, with written answers to users' questions above traditional links.

Users will also be able to exchange directly with the interface, to refine their request. The interface will highlight expert advice (specialized sites, blogs) or links to stores for purchases.

The new Google is due to arrive in the coming weeks, the company has opened a waiting list on which to register.

"Google's expertise in understanding information, combined with generative AI, will once again transform search," Pichai predicted.

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The Internet giant is also developing extensions to Bard, so that users can interact with the robot directly from the Maps mapping application, the Gmail mailbox or the online word processor Docs.

Customers of its cloud business are not forgotten, with tools for companies that want to design their own generative AI-based tools (search, chatbots, etc.) for their applications, with their own data.

Microsoft recently made similar announcements. The IT firm had already integrated ChatGPT into its Bing search engine and completely opened it to the general public last week, relaunching this portal so far negligible compared to Google.

Concerns around AI

The two competitors are competing with ads with one stated goal: that their platforms equipped with generative AI become the privileged personal assistants of users.

Google presented, Wednesday, PaLM 2, the new more advanced version of its language model, these algorithms trained on mountains of data, which make it possible to create conversational robots like ChatGPT or Bard.

"This has allowed a lot of improvements in Bard in the last two months, in terms of mathematics, logic, ability to reason or code and correct code," said product director Jack Krawczyk at a press conference.

"We are at a fascinating moment where the gap between human imagination and the capabilities of technology is rapidly closing," he added.

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But the prowess of Silicon Valley is worrying, especially since OpenAI launched in March GPT-4, a "great multimedia model [...] as successful as humans in many professional and academic contexts."

The boss of the start-up, Sam Altman, explained working towards the so-called "general" artificial intelligence, that is to say programs with human cognitive abilities.

Since then, many experts have voiced fears, from misinformation to job replacement, going so far as to call for a six-month pause in research.

Geoffrey Hinton, a former Google computer scientist considered one of the founding fathers of AI, said on May 3 that the "existential threat" that AI posed to humanity was "serious and close", during a round table organized by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

With AFP

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