Google’s experimental AI chatbot, Bard, received a less than warm reception after a promotional ad for the product featured an embarrassing factual error. This misstep, along with criticism from employees who felt the Paris reveal event was rushed and botched, caused Alphabet, Google’s parent company, to hesitate in launching the technology.
During a speech at the TechSurge conference, John Hennessy, the chairman of Alphabet, revealed that Google had been slow to introduce Bard because it was still giving wrong answers. Hennessy went on to caution that AI chatbots are still in the early stages of development, a sentiment shared by other industry leaders such as Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak and OpenAI co-founder and CEO Sam Altman.
Despite the industry’s enthusiasm for AI chatbots, there are concerns about their ability to generate false but convincing responses, a phenomenon known as “hallucination.” Prabhakar Raghavan, Google’s search engine boss, warned that this issue could create problems for companies that rely on chatbots to interact with customers.
Google’s Bard was unveiled amid intense interest in rival chatbot ChatGPT, and just a day before Microsoft rolled out its AI-powered Bing search engine, which is built using technology from OpenAI, the parent company of ChatGPT. While Hennessy praised Bard as a “great piece of technology,” he acknowledged that the industry is struggling to figure out how to bring chatbots into a product stream in a way that’s sensitive to issues like toxicity and correctness.
Hennessy declined to comment on the public’s reaction to Google’s Bard, but it’s clear that the company’s missteps have had a negative impact on its stock price. Alphabet’s share price plummeted 9% after reports emerged that Bard had given an incorrect response to a question about NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope.