Microsoft Unveils ChatGPT Strategy: AI-Enhanced Bing and Edge
- By John K. Waters
Microsoft today announced a new AI-powered version of its Bing search engine and its Edge web browser, both of which will utilize the capabilities of OpenAI's ChatGPT chatbot to provide users with "a new chat experience and the ability to generate content." Microsoft made the announcement at a surprise press event held at its headquarters in Redmond, WA.
Bing users might already have noticed a new "Ask me anything…" box on their homepages. This is where they will interact with the search engine via ChatGPT, which generates natural-language answers to user questions. As OpenAI explains on its ChatGPT page, "The dialogue format makes it possible for ChatGPT to answer follow-up questions, admit its mistakes, challenge incorrect premises, and reject inappropriate requests."
During the press event, Microsoft's CEO, Satya Nadella noted that search engines were long overdue for some innovation, and he allowed that half of Bing searches have failed to answer user queries.
"It’s a new day in search," he said, "it’s a new paradigm for search, rapid innovation is going to come."
OpenAI has developed software that can beat humans at complex strategy games, as well as the image generator, Dall-E, but it has been its efforts in the area of Generative Pre-trained Transformers (GPTs), specifically GPT-3, launched in 2021, that has captured the world's attention.
A transformer is a deep learning model that was actually introduced by Google in 2017. It's based on a self-attention mechanism that directly models relationships among all words in a sentence, regardless of their respective positions, rather than one-by-one in order. This capability made transformers much faster than recurrent neural networks (RNNs), the leading approach at the time to natural language processing (NLP). Google introduced its open-source machine-learning framework, BERT (Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers) in 2019 to better understand the context of words in search queries.
OpenAI researchers published a paper on generative pre-training in June 2018, in which they showed how a generative model of language is able to acquire world knowledge and process long-range dependencies by pre-training on a diverse corpus with long stretches of contiguous text. GPTs are unsupervised transformer language models; they use machine learning to analyze a sequence of words and other data to write text predictively and essentially elaborate on examples to produce original output, such as newspaper articles, essays, business reports, and short stories.
During the press event, Nadella issued what amounted to a challenge to rivals, the most obvious of which is Google. "The race starts today, and we’re going to move and move fast," he said. "Most importantly, we want to have a lot of fun innovating again in search, because it’s high time."
In fact, Microsoft's press event came on the heels of Google CEO Sundar Pichai's introduction of Bard, his company's own conversational AI service, which is powered by LaMDA (Language Model for Dialogue Applications). Both LaMDA and GPT-3 were built on transformers.
"We’ve been working on an experimental conversational AI service, powered by LaMDA, that we’re calling Bard," Pichai said in a blog post. "And today, we’re taking another step forward by opening it up to trusted testers ahead of making it more widely available to the public in the coming weeks."
Microsoft announced a new multiyear, multibillion-dollar investment in OpenAI in January. The investment, which could be as much as $10 billion, the company said, was the third phase of a partnership that began in 2019.
“I think this technology is going to reshape pretty much every software category,” Nadella said.
A public preview of a version of ChatGPT is available now on that web page. Word has spread about the software's abilities, and people have swarmed to the website, causing long wait times. To date, it has been used to write magazine articles, marketing copy, term papers, short stories, song lyrics, and even to program code builds.
John K. Waters is the editor in chief of a number of Converge360.com sites, with a focus on high-end development, AI and future tech. He's been writing about cutting-edge technologies and culture of Silicon Valley for more than two decades, and he's written more than a dozen books. He also co-scripted the documentary film Silicon Valley: A 100 Year Renaissance, which aired on PBS. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.