Microsoft unveils revamped Bing search engine using AI technology more powerful than ChatGPT

Microsoft has announced a revamp of its Bing search engine and Edge web browser powered by artificial intelligence, weeks after it confirmed plans to invest billions in OpenAI, the company behind ChatGPT.
Photo credit: Microsoft

Microsoft has announced a revamp of its Bing search engine and Edge web browser powered by artificial intelligence, weeks after it confirmed plans to invest billions in OpenAI, the company behind ChatGPT.

With the updates, Bing will not only provide a list of search results, but will also answer questions, chat with users and generate content in response to user queries, Microsoft said at a press event at its Redmond, Washington headquarters.

The updates come as the viral success of ChatGPT has sparked a wave of interest in AI chatbot tools. Multiple tech giants are now competing to deploy similar tools that could transform the way we draft emails, write essays and search for information online. A day before the event, Google announced plans to roll out its own artificial intelligence tool similar to ChatGPT in the coming weeks.

In partnership with OpenAI, Bing will run on a more powerful large language model than the one that underpins ChatGPT. These models are trained on vast troves of online data in order to generate responses to user prompts and queries.

"It's a new paradigm for search, rapid innovation is going to come," Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said during the event on Tuesday (local time).

"In fact, a race starts today ... everyday we want to bring out new things, and most importantly, we want to have a lot of fun innovating in search because it's high time."

Microsoft also said the updated tools are expected to fuel its digital advertising business, by driving more users to its online search tools and increasing demand for ads on its platform.

The updated Bing is expected to be made available for the public to try on Tuesday for limited queries, with a small group of users having unlimited access. The company said full access will roll out to millions of users in the coming weeks, and it also hopes to implement the tools into other web browsers in the future.

Sam Altman, co-founder and CEO of OpenAI, said his company's goal is "to make the benefits of AI to as many people as possible." That, he said, is "why we worked with Microsoft."

Microsoft, an early investor in OpenAI, said last month it plans to expand its existing partnership with the company as part of a greater effort to add more artificial intelligence to its suite of products. In a separate blog post, OpenAI said the multi-year investment will be used to "develop AI that is increasingly safe, useful, and powerful."

"This technology is going to reshape pretty much every software category that we know," Nadella said Tuesday.

The tech giant had already said it would incorporate ChatGPT into products, including its cloud computing platform Azure.

"While Bing today only has roughly 9 percent of the search market, further integrating this unique ChatGPT tool and algorithms into the Microsoft search platform could result in major share shifts away from Google and towards Redmond down the road," Dan Ives, an analyst with Wedbush, said in an investor note on Monday about the upcoming event.

The new Bing

With the new Bing, a user could search for TVs to buy in a new way. Once the results come up, the user can click to the chat section and ask Bing for additional information, such as which TVs are best for gaming and which are the least expensive.

The tool could also create a vacation itinerary for a family in a certain city, and then generate an email with that itinerary for the user to send around to their family. It could even translate the email into other languages if necessary.

When the tool generates written answers, it will provide references for the sources of information and links to click through to the original source from the web.

"With answers, we go far beyond what Search can do today," said Yusuf Mehdi, Microsoft's vice president and consumer chief marketing officer.

The updated Microsoft Edge browser will have the Bing capabilities built in, allowing users to chat with the search tool on the side of a web page, to ask questions about the page or compare it with content from across the web. It could also, for example, help users draft a post on Microsoft-owned LinkedIn on a certain topic. The company describes the new capabilities as a sort of "co-pilot" to help users navigate the web.

Many have speculated the AI technology behind ChatGPT could cause a massive shake-up in the online search industry. In the two months since it launched to the public, the viral tool has been used to generate essays, stories and song lyrics, and to answer some questions one might previously have searched for on Google or other search engines.

The immense attention on ChatGPT in recent weeks reportedly prompted Google's management to declare a "code red" situation for its search business. On Monday, Google unveiled a new chatbot tool dubbed "Bard" in an apparent bid to compete with the viral success of ChatGPT.

Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google and parent company Alphabet, said in a blog post that Bard will be opened up to "trusted testers" starting Monday, with plans to make it available to the public in the coming weeks.

"Bard seeks to combine the breadth of the world's knowledge with the power, intelligence and creativity of our large language models ... It draws on information from the web to provide fresh, high-quality responses," Pichai wrote.

Potential shortcomings

While AI tools like ChatGPT are rapidly gaining traction among both users and tech companies, they've also raised some concerns, including about their potential to perpetuate biases and spread misinformation.

Microsoft executives acknowledged the potential shortcomings of its new tool.

"We know we won't be able to answer every question every single time," Mehdi said. "We also know we'll make our share of mistakes, so we've added a quick feedback button at the top of every search, so you can give us feedback and we can learn."

Executives said the tool is trained in part by sample conversations mimicking bad actors who might want to exploit the tool.

"With a technology this powerful," said responsible AI lead Sarah Bird, "I also know that we have an even greater responsibility to make sure that it's developed, deployed and used properly."