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Express View on Google’s AI integration: Chatbot in inbox

Having played catch-up on AI since OpenAI’s low-key but hugely successful launch of ChatGPT in November last year, could tech behemoth Google finally sprint ahead? ChatGPT was an instant hit and captured users’ imaginations. The response to Google’s own AI-powered chatbot, Bard, hurriedly released in March this year, was much less enthusiastic — a factual error about the James Webb Space Telescope in the very first demo caused the stock of Alphabet, Google’s parent company, to drop by 7 per cent. With the announcement that it is integrating Bard, much improved since, with its popular products such as Gmail, Docs and YouTube, Google hopes to regain some of its lost sheen.

The “trailer” shared by CEO Sundar Pichai as part of the announcement makes a compelling case for this move. Want to plan that long-pending trip with your college friends? Just ask Bard to make an itinerary, with all the relevant flight and hotel information pulled up from Google’s own products. Need highlights from a client’s feedback email? Use Bard to look through Gmail. Other AI-powered chatbots, including ChatGPT and Microsoft’s Bing, can perform similar mundane tasks, but the fact that Google already dominates so much of the digital landscape makes it that much easier for Bard to take over.

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It’s also this dominance of the market that might make the average user wary. Even notwithstanding the impact that Google’s ongoing antitrust trial in the US might have on its image — remember the PR crisis that was Meta’s 2021 whistleblower hearing? — concerns regarding privacy are bound to raise their heads. Data, after all, is the magic ingredient needed to train AI to perform more and more tasks on humans’ behalf. In allowing an AI chatbot to be integrated into every segment of their digital lives, from work to leisure to personal relationships, how much control will users be ceding to it? That’s the question.

© The Indian Express (P) Ltd

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