Google opens access to Bard chatbot

Users in the UK and US can test the conversational artificial intelligence service

Google chief executive Sundar Pichai unveiled Bard last month. Photograph: Dominic Lipinski/PA

Google has begun opening access to its conversational artificial intelligence service Bard, starting with the United States and the UK.

But Irish users will have to wait, with Google adding new countries and languages over time.

The move comes a month after Google said it would make its artificial intelligence available to the public, starting with Bard, which will go head to head with OpenAI’s Chat GPT. The latter recently launched a new version of its software, Chat GPT4, and now offers a premium subscription option to users.

In a blog post written by Sissie Hsiao, Google’s vice-president of product, and Eli Collins, vice-president of research, said Bard had a number of uses.


“You can use Bard to boost your productivity, accelerate your ideas and fuel your curiosity. You might ask Bard to give you tips to reach your goal of reading more books this year, explain quantum physics in simple terms or spark your creativity by outlining a blog post,” the post said. “We’ve learned a lot so far by testing Bard, and the next critical step in improving it is to get feedback from more people.”

Bard, which is based on a lightweight version of Google’s LaMDA technology, was initially made available to “trusted external testers” as the company refined the service ahead of a wider roll-out of the system. Announcing plans to widen access, Google also addressed the high-profile error that saw Bard deliver a wrong answer during its launch announcement.

“While LLMs are an exciting technology, they’re not without their faults. For instance, because they learn from a wide range of information that reflects real-world biases and stereotypes, those sometimes show up in their outputs. And they can provide inaccurate, misleading or false information while presenting it confidently,” the blog post said.

“Although it’s important to be aware of challenges like these, there are still incredible benefits to LLMs, like jump-starting human productivity, creativity and curiosity. And so, when using Bard, you’ll often get the choice of a few different drafts of its response so you can pick the best starting point for you.”

Google began focusing on artificial intelligence six years ago, but the company has long implemented machine learning in its search facility, in addition to its research projects. However, the launch of OpenAI’s ChatGPT service has largely caught the industry by surprise.

Ciara O'Brien

Ciara O'Brien

Ciara O'Brien is an Irish Times business and technology journalist