ChatGPT Has Kicked Off a Big Tech AI Race for Search

As Microsoft announced its ChatGPT-enhanced Bing search engine, Google and Baidu are close behind.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella. Stephen Brashear/Getty Images

The wild popularity of ChatGPT, an artificial intelligence-powered text generator developed by OpenAI, has kicked off a heated race among big tech companies to develop their own A.I. chatbots.

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Microsoft: a new Bing powered by ChatGPT

At a surprise press event today (Feb. 7), Microsoft (MSFT) CEO Satya Nadella unveiled a new version of Bing that can answer questions in a similar way to ChatGPT. The new search engine is powered by some of OpenAI’s GPT-3.5 language technologies, said OpenAI CEO Sam Altman, who spoke onstage at the event.

Microsoft shares rose more than 4 percent today.

Two weeks ago, Microsoft announced a multiyear partnership with OpenAI in a deal estimated to be worth $10 billion. Microsoft was already an investor in OpenAI, having led two rounds of investments in the A.I. research lab.

The initial version of the new Bing, available on desktop only, can handle a limited number of queries. Microsoft said a waitlist will be available for the full version and a mobile version is coming soon.

“It’s a new day in search, it’s a new paradigm for search, rapid innovation is going to come,” Nadella said onstage.

Google: Bard chatbot powered by LaMDA

On Feb. 6, Google (GOOGL) announced a ChatGPT-style text generator called Bard. The initial version is accessible to “trusted testers” only for now and will be opened to the public in the coming weeks, according to a blog post on its website.

Google shares jumped more than 3.7 percent today following the announcement.

Bard is powered by a Google-developed language model called LaMDA (stands for “Language Model for Dialogue Applications”), which has been around since 2021. LaMDA made headlines last summer when a former Google engineer claimed the chatbot was “sentient.”

Since its debut in November 2022, ChatGPT has been widely considered a threat to Google’s search business because of its more advanced answer-generating capabilities. The popularity of ChatGPT reportedly prompted Google’s management to declare a “code red” situation for its search business. Google CEO Sundar Pichai said in the blog post. on Feb. 6 the company will soon incorporate some of Bard’s features into Google Search.

“Bard seeks to combine the breadth of the world’s knowledge with the power, intelligence and creativity of our large language models,” Pichai wrote. “Soon, you’ll see AI-powered features in Search that distill complex information and multiple perspectives into easy-to-digest formats, so you can quickly understand the big picture and learn more from the web.”

Baidu: “Ernie Bot” powered by in-house language model

Also on Feb. 6, Chinese search giant Baidu (BIDU) said it will launch a bilingual (English and Chinese) A.I. text generator called “Ernie Bot” in March. Ernie, which stands for “Enhanced Representation through Knowledge Integration,” is based on a language model of the same name that Baidu first developed in 2019.

The Ernie language model has 260 billion parameters, according to Baidu. It’s larger than ChatGPT’s current GPT3 training model, which has 175 billion parameters. 

The announcement sent Baidu shares traded on Nasdaq to jump more than 10 percent today. Baidu’s Hong Kong-listed shares jumped 16 percent following the news.

ChatGPT Has Kicked Off a Big Tech AI Race for Search