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Bard’s clunky demo and development leads to internal tensions at Google

To add insult to injury, Google's market price dropped around $100 million.

Last week’s press event for Google’s upcoming ChatGPT rival, Bard, featured an embarrassing error and ended up being poorly received over all, with critics stating that it seemed like a rushed attempt to placate investors. Since the event, internal tensions at Google are being reported, as employees criticize the event, Bard, and CEO Sundar Pichai’s strategy.

Google’s demo of Bard’s capabilities went sideways as viewers online began to point out that the AI returned an incorrect answer regarding the James Webb Space Telescope. When, during the live demo, Bard was asked “What new discoveries from the James Webb Space Telescope can I tell my 9 year old about?” the software returned three answers. Unfortunately, one of them, “JWST took the very first pictures of a planet outside our own solar system,” is incorrect. That honor, according to NASA, belongs to the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope, which snapped the picture a full 17 years before the JWST was launched.

When the error became widespread, Google stocks tanked and its parent company Alphabet lost about $100 million in market value. Now, what was an embarrassing and costly mistake for Google is appearing to cause internal tensions as well. CNBC has reported that employees are using the company’s internal forum to voice criticism and complaints over Google’s direction, with one post stating, “Dear Sundar, the Bard launch and the layoffs were rushed, botched, and myopic. Please return to taking a long-term outlook.” Other comments echoed the sentiment, with another saying, “Sundar, and leadership, deserve a Perf NI. They are being comically short sighted and un-Googlely in their pursuit of ‘sharpening focus.'” “Perf NI” refers to the lowest rating of “needs improvement,” per Google’s internal rating system.


The following was originally published on February 7, 2023:

Since it was made public just a few months ago, OpenAI’s ChatGPT, the AI-powered text generation bot has managed to find a home across industries, where companies as large as Microsoft  have experimented with use cases for the cutting-edge tech. Not to be outdone, Google has confirmed they are working on a competitor, called Bard, which they refer to as “an experimental conversational AI service.”

Google CEO Sundar Pichai discussed Bard in a blog post, where he states the scale of the  largest AI computations today are doubling every six months. Pichai goes on to say that Bard is powered by Google’s Language Model for Dialogue Applications (LaMDA), and has now been opened up to “trusted testers” before it is given a wider public release in the coming weeks.


Pichai states, “Bard seeks to combine the breadth of the world’s knowledge with the power, intelligence and creativity of our large language models. It draws on information from the web to provide fresh, high-quality responses. Bard can be an outlet for creativity, and a launchpad for curiosity, helping you to explain new discoveries from NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope to a 9-year-old, or learn more about the best strikers in football right now, and then get drills to build your skills.”


The initial testing release of Bard (and presumably the version coming public in the coming weeks) is built on a “more lightweight” version of LaMDA that requires far less computing power in an effort to get more feedback from a larger number of users to make the technology more efficient.

More information on Bard is expected to come out during the Google Search and AI event tomorrow, February 8th.


See also: Google won’t release program that creates complex music from text input

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