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Google Bard, Microsoft Bing, and ChatGPT are making the AI-powered reassignment to online search


Internet search, which was dominated by Google for 25 years, has become as cliche as making a phone call, but it can finally be deeply reset thanks to artificial intelligence.

Classic search and click made ubiquitous by giant Google gets a major AI makeover as ChatGPT, Bard or Bing bots see hundreds of millions of web surfers searching for answers to life’s questions in a new way.

“People realize how often they use Google search, not to find a webpage, but to answer a question,” said Stefan Sieg, chief product officer of Germany-based Software AG.

Microsoft, long considered the boring uncle of big tech, has jumped fearlessly and some say blindly into generative AI search with an update to Bing, which has long struggled also to Google.

The Bing bot, which was released worldwide after three months of testing, responds directly to a query rather than throwing up a bunch of links for a search user to go through and click.

Through a prompt, Bing will compare two products, brainstorm vacation plans or reassuringly help prepare for a job interview, for example.

Lifting heavy loads

“Now, search does the heavy lifting for you,” Cathy Edwards, vice president of engineering at Google, said during the company’s annual I/O developer conference in California.

The user no longer has to “scrutinize information and then piece things together,” she said.

At the conference, matching Bing, Google introduced the latest version of its web search engine, but instead of the constellation of links you’re facing today, the chatbot offered up a few paragraphs to answer what you were looking for.

The company said that Google’s AI-powered search engine will be released slowly in the United States for a start.

“What we’re trying to do is make it more natural and intuitive, as easy as asking a friend and getting information from someone who is familiar with whatever question you have in the world,” Elizabeth Reid, vice president of research, told AFP. .

In addition to search, Google and Microsoft have rolled out formative AI tools for other products, from the cloud to word processing, presenting bots as useful “co-pilots,” to use the term coined at home by the maker of Windows.

Personal genie

“I think search will be broken into a million pieces, integrated into all kinds of interfaces, not just one central interconnected place, which is what Google has become,” said John Battelle, author and media entrepreneur.

He warned that if each site acts as a loyal friend, distinguishing between good and bad information will become much more difficult.

“Would you trust an AI travel agent to give you the right deal? No,” Patel said.

“I want my ‘genie’, my ‘agent’ to negotiate with the site. If I’m just against the AI, I lose. I want one on my side.”

The Battelle “genie” digests the user’s information from the smartphone, computer, TV or car to help answer and work for the user in online life.

Powered by personal data, the bot will buy the best vacuum cleaner according to your tastes, habits and current promotions, saving you a long and tedious search.

The AI ​​personal assistant should come with a fee, ensuring that personal data is not harvested and sold to the highest bidder for online advertising or tracking, as is the case on social media.

Startups like Replika, Anima, and others are already beginning to move into the AI-related space.

vital role

Right now, Google is not going away, said Jim Lesinski, a professor of marketing at the Kellogg School of Management.

“We could have had this same conversation about four years ago with the advent of voice assistants like Alexa or Siri,”

“Oh my God,” he said, “the search is dying out because people will just talk their queries to their car and their appliances on their kitchen counter. Well, here we are.”

Lisinski said that disabling generative AI could challenge the Internet’s business model, as it could allow users to find the product they want “without having to click on an ad”.

But he has no doubt that giants like Google and the primarily ad-driven Meta will find solutions.

In the new version of Google Search introduced on Wednesday, ads still appear, either at the top of the page or below in the results, depending on the question asked.

“I don’t think we can predict what the future will hold, but we do believe that ads will continue to play a vital role,” Google’s Reed said.

Google I/O 2023 saw Google tell us over and over again that it cares about AI, along with the launch of its first Pixel-branded foldable phone and tablet. This year, the company will power its apps, services, and Android operating system with artificial intelligence technology. We discuss this and more on Orbital, the Gadgets 360 podcast. Orbital is available on Spotify, Gaana, JioSaavn, Google Podcasts, Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music and wherever you get your podcast.

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Joanna Swanson

Joanna Swanson is Europe correspondent at the Thomson Reuters Foundation based in Brussels covering politics, culture, business, climate change, society, economies and inclusive tech. With specific focus in breaking news, she has covered some of the world's most significant stories.