Google is making its ChatGPT rival Bard available to a wider audience today, launching the generative AI chatbot in more than 40 languages and finally bringing it to the European Union (EU) after an initial delay due to data privacy concerns.
The internet giant also introduced a swathe of new features to Bard, though some are only available in English at first.
Google first teased Bard back in February in what was seemingly a rushed response to the snowballing success of ChatGPT, a super smart search engine / chatbot that leans on large language models (LLMs) to generate fresh content from simple prompts. ChatGPT is the handiwork of OpenAI, and AI company with heavy backing from Google rival Microsoft.
While Bard initially opened for early access in English starting in the U.S. and U.K. back in March, the initial waitlist ended in May with a global rollout spanning some 180 countries and with additional support for Japanese and Korean. A notable omission thus far, however, has been the EU, with Google delaying the EU launch after a privacy regulator voiced concerns. The Irish Data Protection Commission (DPC), which governs data protection in the EU region when companies use Ireland as their European HQ, said that while Google had informed the DPC of its intentions to launch Bard in the EU, it hadn’t provided the regulator with enough information to address its data privacy concerns.
With today’s launch, it seems that Google has now given the DPC what it was looking for.
“We’ve proactively engaged with experts, policymakers and privacy regulators on this expansion,” Bard product lead Jack Krawczyk, and VP of engineering Amarnag Subramanya, wrote in a blog post.
Indeed, Google has touted its latest update as its “biggest expansion to date,” rolling out across most of the world with support for Arabic, Spanish, Chinese, German, and Hindi. And in addition to the EU, Bard is also now available in Brazil.
Coinciding with the expansion are new features focused on fine-tuning Bard’s responses and beefing up the chatbot’s potential for productivity. Some were telegraphed and previewed in early May, but today marks their broad rollout.
Now, users can change the tone and style of Bard’s responses with five different options: “simple,” “long,” “short,” “professional” or “casual.” Available in English to start, the toggle takes Bard’s default responses to a prompt and adjusts them to align with whichever tone and style the user selects.
Elsewhere, Bard can now vocalize its responses thanks to a new text-to-speech AI feature. Supporting over 40 languages, the chatbot’s audible responses can be accessed by clicking the new sound icon next to a prompt.
On the productivity side, Bard can now export code to more places — specifically Python code to Replit. the browser-based integrated development environment. Images can be used in prompts — users can upload images with prompts (only in English for now) and Bard will analyze the photo. New options allow users to pin, rename and pick up recent conversations with Bard. And Bard’s responses can now more easily be shared with the outside world through links.
“Curiosity and imagination are the driving forces behind human creativity,” Krawczyk and Subramanya wrote. “That’s why we created Bard: to help you explore that curiosity, augment your imagination and ultimately get your ideas off the ground — not just by answering your questions, but by helping you build on them.”
Google struggled mightily with Bard early in the chatbot’s life cycle, failing to match the quality of responses from rival bots such as ChatGPT. It gave factually incorrect answers complete with made-up citations, leading even Google employees to label the chatbot “worse than useless” and a “pathological liar.” (The company’s stock briefly tanked 8% at Bard’s launch.)
But Google claims that Bard is improving in measurable ways, particularly in areas like math and programming. It’s also gained extensions, including from Google’s own apps and services as well as third-party partners like Adobe, and the ability to explain code; structure data in a table; and surface images in its responses.
In another bad look for Google, though, reporting this week from Bloomberg revealed that the humans who train Bard are often overworked and underpaid. Some contractors make as little as $14 per hour, receive minimal training and are expected to complete complex audits of Bard in minutes.
Bloomberg’s story follows an Insider piece in April that found that Bard-testing contractors weren’t given enough time to corroborate and check the chatbot’s most accurate answer. From the looks of it, that hasn’t changed.