Microsoft is ready to take its new artificial intelligence (AI) chatbot mainstream, less than a week after making major fixes to stop it from going off the rails.
The company said on Wednesday it is bringing the new AI technology to its Bing smartphone app, as well as the app for its Edge Internet browser, though it is still requiring people to sign up for a waitlist before using it.
In the Bing mobile app, users can tap the Bing icon to start a chat session and ask various questions either in writing or using their voices, Microsoft said in a blog post.
The chatbot can interact in more than 100 languages and answers can be displayed in bullet points, text or a “simplified response,” it added.
Racing with Google over AI
By putting the new AI-powered search engine into the hands of smartphone users, Microsoft is hoping to gain an advantage over Google, which currently dominates the online search business but hasn’t yet released such a chatbot to the public.
In the two weeks since Microsoft unveiled its revamped Bing, more than a million users around the world have experimented with a public preview of the new product, after signing up for a waitlist to try it.
Microsoft said most of those users responded positively, but others found Bing was insulting them, professing its love or using strange language.
The new Bing – which is powered by some of the same technology behind Microsoft partner Open AI’s popular chatbot ChatGPT – is part of an emerging class of AI systems that have mastered the human language and grammar after ingesting a huge trove of books and online writings.
They can compose songs, recipes and emails on command, or concisely summarise concepts with information found across the Internet. But tests have shown they are also error-prone and unwieldy.
Reports of Bing’s odd behaviour led Microsoft to look for a way to curtail Bing’s propensity to respond with strong emotional language to certain questions.
It’s mostly done that by limiting the length and time of conversations with the chatbot, forcing users to start a fresh chat after several turns. But the upgraded Bing also now politely declines questions that it would have responded to just a week ago.
“I’m sorry but I prefer not to continue this conversation,” it says when asked technical questions about how it works or the rules that guide it. “I’m still learning so I appreciate your understanding and patience”.
Microsoft said its new technology will also be integrated into its Skype messaging service.
China’s Baidu also joins the race
Baidu, one of China’s biggest search engine and AI firms, also said on Wednesday it plans to integrate its AI chatbot Ernie into its search services from March.
Baidu, which is known for its search engine and autonomous driving technology, leads China’s efforts to create a rival to ChatGPT.
It said earlier this month that it would complete internal testing of the Ernie Bot in March before making the service public.