A review of Google Bard

What is Google Bard?

If you are familiar with digital tech and AI, you probably know all about Google Bard. But here’s a brief overview. Google Bard is a Large Language Model just like ChatGPT and Bing AI which provides answers to queries from users, much like a search engine. The main difference is that the answers provided are in the form of lengthy and conversational text, instead of a collection of web pages that might answer the query. It can also generate text, produce written content, translate languages, solve maths problems, and even write and generate code. These are some bold claims to make – does Google Bard really work, and how does it measure up against its competitors? 

Is Google Bard available in the US and UK?

Google Bard has been in development for some time but was hurriedly unveiled on February 2023 to compete with major AI player ChatGPT. At first, Google Bard was released in the UK and US in March 2023 to a select few who joined a waiting list, but now it is available all over the world in 46 different languages. You can also get a Google Chrome extension that enables you to use Google Bard by typing queries right into your search bar. 

Is Google Bard as good as ChatGPT?

This is the big question – ChatGPT, even with its own limitations, has quickly established itself as the king of AI for content generation. Can Google Bard measure up? 

The main difference between the two is that ChatGPT is powered by a Large Language Model called GPT-4 (or GPT-3.5) created by its owner OpenAI, and Google Bard is powered by Google’s own PaLM2. GPT3.5 is free but to use GPT-4, users must subscribe at $20 per month, whereas Google Bard is always free. 

While both ChatGPT and Google Bard are being updated and improved every day, Google does present Bard as a work in progress whereas ChatGPT seems like more of a finished product. This is probably Google’s attempt at distancing themselves from any potential controversy caused by the content Bard generates. 

Visit Google Bard and you will immediately be told that it can and will make errors or display inaccurate information. You will also be peppered with various disclaimers such as “Human reviewers may process your Bard conversations for quality purposes. Don’t enter sensitive info.” or “Bard may display inaccurate or offensive information that doesn’t represent Google’s views.” With this in mind, we should at least exercise caution when using Google Bard or other LLM-powered AIs. 

A cool thing that Google Bard offers is its integration into other Google apps such as export to Gmail, Docs, Sheets, and Colab (a tool for running Python code). ChatGPT offers no such equivalent, although of course there’s nothing stopping you from copying and pasting ChatGPT’s output into other applications or programs. 

How about the content that Google Bard and ChatGPT produce? Google Bard’s output is simpler and more conversational whereas ChatGPT’s responses are more detailed but less ‘human’-sounding. According to PCMag, Google Bard also provides responses with a lower reading level than ChatGPT but did score higher on overall readability.

Tech.co decided that Bard was the better chatbot after doing extensive side-by-side testing of both. However, they do acknowledge that there were advantages and drawbacks to Google Bard and ChatGPT.

Bard also has live access to the internet, meaning it can offer more up-to-date information, but ChatGPT does not, and its ‘knowledge’ is limited to things that happened before September 2021. You can feed ChatGPT more current information but that does mean more work for you. Also just because Bard has internet access doesn’t mean will be any more accurate.

Google Bard also has the ability to cite sources for any claims made. ChatGPT will gamely provide realistic-looking links if you ask for sources, but often they will be completely made up. Google Bard’s citations may not be especially relevant or high quality, but they are generally actual web pages rather than some fake links. 

Is Google Bard better than Bing Chat?

Bing has also released its own AI tool to compete with Google Bard and ChatGPT. Bing is almost a joke in terms of its competition with Google (has anyone ‘Bing’ed anything lately?) so the idea of it competing with Bard and other AIs seems impossible. But let’s see what Bing has to offer. 

Bing Chat is integrated right into the Bing search engine and claims to provide better search results using its AI capabilities. Weirdly, Bing uses GPT-4, so it’s hard to believe there’s much difference between Bing and ChatGPT. Bing does have a very user-friendly interface and unlike Google Bard, does not require users to sign in. However it is also limited to 2000 words per response, and no limit exists on Bard or ChatGPT.

Bing Chat does appear to be more reliable than Bard. According to SearchEngineLand, Bing’s accuracy was measured at 77% whereas Bard came in at a shameful 63%. This is quite shocking when you consider that both have access to the internet, unlike ChatGPT, and Bing uses the same LLM as ChatGPT. 

Much like Google Bard, Bing Chat does have its own caveats warning you not to take its responses as gospel, saying “Bing is powered by AI, so surprises and mistakes are possible. Make sure to check the facts, and share feedback so we can learn and improve!” ‘Surprises’ sure is a nice way of saying ‘making stuff up’, but the message does hit a lot better, PR-wise.

Searching for ‘Bing AI’ and clicking on the first result does give an unexpected result – see below. This is what it provided to me, completely unprompted:

Bing Chat is certainly willing to tell on itself, revealing news stories about how ‘hackers’ are using Bing Chat to target users with malicious ads. It also provided a link to a Fox News article which gives more details on this story. Other AI models do not provide unasked-for information like this and, definitely not bad news about themselves! This does ring true, though, that Bing is more reliable.

Bing also offers some convenient extra features that Bard does not. It does offer AI images thanks to DALL-E, an AI image generator made by OpenAI. Unfortunately at the time of writing (October 2023) it could not fulfil my request for an image due to high demand.

Bing Chat also offers three different modes – Creative, Precise, and Balanced.

I did ask Bing to explain its ‘modes’ and it got halfway through an explanation before failing and giving this as a response:

Bing could be a serious competitor but its results today have been very disappointing.

Google Bard controversy

Google did drop a few clangers when unveiling Bard to the world. During a live demonstration shared on Twitter, Bard quite confidently said the James Webb telescope took the first pictures of a planet outside of our solar system. This is not true and many Twitter users rushed to point this out, much to Google’s embarrassment.  

This is a fairly harmless error to make but it came at a bad time. The value of Google’s parent company, Alphabet’s shares dropped by 8% after this.

In the rush to compete with ChatGPT, Google Bard was released sooner than developers were expecting, prompting some to reveal that it was not market-ready. The Verge reports that some Google devs described Bard as “worse than useless” and a “pathological liar”. While these claims could also be levied at ChatGPT and others, all AI models do include that all-important disclaimer saying to double-check facts, although this doesn’t mean that all users will be this diligent.

Is Google Bard worth trying?

Overall, There are some great advantages to Google Bard, such as its capability to access the internet and the super handy integrations with other Google apps. It does have drawbacks too and depending on your specific needs, Bard may not always be the best choice. Like all AI models, we should definitely be careful with relying on Bard for factual information. Always double-check any information provided by AI chatbots and bear in mind their limitations.

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