On Tuesday, Microsoft unveiled a new version of its Bing search engine that includes the technology behind ChatGPT, an AI system for conversational and creative responses that marks the first major chance in years to overtake search king Google.
Bing is now an “AI-powered co-pilot for the web,” the tech giant said, providing search results infused with information from the large language model from Microsoft partner OpenAI. Bing is also getting a new chat window that Microsoft said will help deliver shopping lists and advice, travel tips and trivia. The technology is also built into Microsoft’s Edge browser, which can perform tasks such as summarizing PDF files and generating LinkedIn posts.
“Every computer interaction will be mediated using an agent,” CEO Satya Nadella said at a launch event at the company’s headquarters in Redmond, Washington. “We’re going to have this notion of a copilot that’s going to be in every app.”
You can try out a preview version of the new AI-powered Copilot technology with a limited number of requests at bing.com/new and sign up to get on a waiting list for a wider release. In the coming weeks, Microsoft plans to offer it to millions of people and add a mobile version.
The technology is basically a new development for the search engine business that hasn’t changed much over the years. Google is working to mix more answers into its results, but that pales in comparison to what new AI technology can offer. Chat technology based on large language models – the artificial intelligence systems trained on huge texts on the Internet – offers much more complex answers and information.
“Microsoft now has a window to be a bigger player in the consumer technology space, starting with its chatbot assistant built with Bing,” said Gartner analyst Jason Wong.
Google, the king of the search engine business, tried to one-up Microsoft by unveiling its own AI chatbot, Bard, on Monday. Google invented the “transformational” AI technology that is the key to these big language models, and is a serious competitor. For one thing, Google, not Bing, is the site people go to for information today.
But Microsoft seems to be ahead of the curve in building the technology directly into its products. And when Bing incorporated AI information into its search results, “we saw the biggest jump in relevance in two decades,” said Yusuf Mehdi, chief consumer marketing officer at Microsoft.
Microsoft will show ads next to the new AI search results, Mehdi said.
As of January, Bing had a 3 percent share of search engine usage, compared to Google’s 92 percent, according to analyst firm StatCounter. Search is Google’s main source of revenue, as the company places ads next to search results.
Microsoft is trying to avoid the pitfalls of AI
Microsoft is trying to avoid some big potential problems with AI. It presents its responses to the AI as suggestions and starting points, not as the final word—hence the term “co-pilot” rather than pilot.
For example, when you want to use Microsoft’s new AI tools to boost creativity, you should treat the AI text as a draft, not as the final words you’re going to publish. The technology uses its own Bing technology to try to find useful and credible sources of information and clean up bad data, including low-value AI-generated text.
And Bing in some situations shows its sources, for example articles with product recommendations, for better transparency. By comparison, it’s anyone’s guess where ChatGPT gets its advice and answers.
And if you don’t like the results, Bing’s interface offers a thumbs down button where you can complain next to a thumbs up button for praise.
Editor’s note: CNET uses an AI engine to create some personal finance explanations that are edited and fact-checked by our editors. For more see this post.