Microsoft is rolling out the new AI-powered version of its Bing search engine to anyone who wants to use it.
Nearly three months after the company debuted a limited preview version of its new Bing, powered by the viral AI chatbot ChatGPT, Microsoft is opening it up to all users without a waitlist — as long as they’re signed into the search engine via Microsoft’s Edge browser.
The move highlights Microsoft’s commitment to move forward with the product even as the AI technology behind it has sparked concerns around inaccuracies and tone. In some cases, people who baited the new Bing were subject to some emotionally reactive and aggressive responses.
“We’re getting better at speed, we’re getting better at accuracy … but we are on a never-ending quest to make things better and better,” Yusuf Mehdi, a VP at Microsoft overseeing its AI initiatives, told CNN on Wednesday.
Bing now gets more than 100 million daily active users each day, a significant uptick in the past few months, according to Mehdi. Google, which has long dominated the market, is also adding similar AI features to its search engine.
In February, Microsoft showed off how its revamped search engine could write summaries of search results, chat with users to answer additional questions about a query and write emails or other compositions based on the results.
At a press event in New York City on Wednesday, the company shared an early look at some updates, including the ability to ask questions with pictures, access chat history so the chatbot remembers its rapport with users, and export responses to Microsoft Word. Users can also personalize the tone and style of the chatbot’s responses, selecting from a lengthier, creative reply to something that’s shorter and to the point.
The wave of attention in recent months around ChatGPT, developed by OpenAI with financial backing from Microsoft, helped renew an arms race among tech companies to deploy similar AI tools in their products. OpenAI, Microsoft and Google are at the forefront of this trend, but IBM, Amazon, Baidu and Tencent are working on similar technologies. A long list of startups are also developing AI writing assistants and image generators.
Beyond adding AI features to search, Microsoft has said it plans to bring ChatGPT technology to its core productivity tools, including Word, Excel and Outlook, with the potential to change the way we work. The decision to add generative AI features to Bing could be particularly risky, however, given how much people rely on search engines for accurate and reliable information.
Microsoft’s moves also come amid heightened scrutiny on the rapid pace of advancement in AI technology. In March, some of the biggest names in tech, including Elon Musk and Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, called for artificial intelligence labs to stop the training of the most powerful AI systems for at least six months, citing “profound risks to society and humanity.”
Mehdi said he doesn’t believe the AI industry is moving too fast and suggested the calls for a pause aren’t particularly helpful.
“Some people think we should pause development for six months but I’m not sure that fixes anything or improves or moves things along,” he said. “But I understand where it’s coming from concern wise.”
He added: “The only way to really build this technology well is to do it out in the open in the public so we can have conversations about it.”
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