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Google runs into technical complications during unveiling of its Bard A.I.

Yahoo Finance senior tech reporter Allie Garfinkle details the technical difficulties Google's Bard ran into during the debut presentation of the artificial intelligence application.

Video transcript

PRAS SUBRAMANIAN: So really, I want a quick pivot to Google. One of the company's top Google lab executives, [? Clay ?] [? Baver ?] leaving the company, according to a LinkedIn post. He's teamed with former Salesforce CEO Bret Taylor, starting an AI company. Speaking of AI's, Alphabet shares closing lower, down nearly-- wow, 8% there. The tech giant hosted a presentation to show off some of the AI features.

Our senior tech reporter, Allie Garfinkle here to discuss more about that. What's going on here? Why is Google Bard kind of just getting a really lackluster response?


ALLIE GARFINKLE: Yeah, this was a question I had too, Pras. And there were a couple of things that became immediately clear as I started talking to experts. The first was that there were fears about Bard's accuracy pretty much right out of the gate. Basically, what happened-- I'm not an astrophysicist but Bard was asked about new discoveries from the James Webb Space Telescope. And the sentence was presented sort of oddly. And what you ended up with was something that was actually technically accurate, according to "Financial Times" reporting, but presenting a broader problem about interpreting how these chat bots, right?

So on one hand, you have that. And then on the other, the showcase wasn't what necessarily what people were expecting. I spoke to a couple of SEO experts about this, who follow Google like it's their job, because it is. And what they were saying is that the showcase really reiterated and expanded on features that already existed. One example of this is the Search or Screen feature for Google Lens. And that was talked about by the company as being in beta back in 2021. So a lot of stuff that's being expanded, but not a lot that's new.

And the last thing that's maybe worth noting is that the presentation itself was kind of on Google, like in certain ways. One analyst I saw was using the word underwhelming. And an SEO expert I was talking to, actually just outside the studio-- the story is developing so fast that I was talking to him and got this quote from him literally five minutes ago. What he said that I thought was really profound was, we wanted to see something that was a game changer. And instead what we ended up with was them talking about subtleties.

PRAS SUBRAMANIAN: You know, I'm just kind of confused as to why Google, Alphabet, all this money, all this firepower they can bring to AI is getting outgunned by OpenAI, a small startup in Silicon Valley. What happened there? I can't understand how they got so far behind in AI.

ALLIE GARFINKLE: Well, what's interesting is Google-- part of the subtext of this presentation today was Google saying, we developed the technology. I don't know if you remember the fuss over Lambda over the summer, where an engineer came out saying it was sentient. Every AI expert I've talked to said there is no way it is sentient. And I think that there's part of what's happened is that, frankly, they haven't leveraged that technology as well as they might have expected, particularly and not with user interface, which is what they've become known for.

The other thing too is I think shots are very clearly being fired right now from Microsoft. Satya Nadella, in an article today, was saying, from now on the gross margin of search is going to drop forever. What does that mean? What he's suggesting is that Google won't be able to keep up with search as these searches get more expensive and complicated, and as these margins compress.

PRAS SUBRAMANIAN: In retrospect, it was very telling, about three weeks ago, "The New York Times," reported that Larry Page and Sergey Brin had returned to Google, clearly panicking that they were falling behind in the AI race. It didn't seem like much then. It sure looks like a lot now. They knew how big a problem this could be for Google. Allie, thank you. Great stuff.