Bing AI chatbot gets faster at responding – and better sports knowledge, too

Microsoft has provided its regular weekly update on improvements for Bing AI, and there are some impressive strides forward this week.

Neowin spotted that the chatbot now has reduced latency spikes when it comes to certain answers, meaning you won’t be hanging around as long for a reply in these cases.

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As Mikhail Parakhin, Microsoft’s head of Advertising and Web Services, explained on Twitter, this is a result of Bing AI getting a “completely reworked backend for inner monologue”, meaning streamlining the chatbot’s ‘thinking’ process.

A second benefit this week is better handling of sports-related queries, so the range of topics covered in this field is now considerably broader, from the NHL to the FIFA Women’s World Cup.

Finally, there’s a boon for those using Bing AI in Skype, with the ability to generate images (Bing Image Creator) now present within Skype conversations.

Analysis: The importance of being snappy

A snappier Bing AI is vital. Whatever query you throw at the chatbot, you want the response to come with a minimum of hanging around. If you find yourself tapping your foot (or perhaps your finger on the keyboard) while waiting for Bing to get back to you, that’ll be off-putting (and might remind you of live chats, where waits can be frustrating if a help agent is dealing with multiple simultaneous queries).

That responsiveness is a key area for Bing to do well in (that and, of course, the accuracy and usefulness of the response delivered, which is always paramount). So Microsoft is quite right to be honing away on this front.

That said, you can still be subject to waiting times that aren’t the fault of the backend (inner workings of Bing as it processes queries), but are purely due to traffic spikes. When lots of people are using the chatbot, things get more sluggish purely in terms of coping with that volume.

Incidentally, Parakhin elaborated on this in the above Twitter thread, noting that the major peaks of usage occur when folks arrive in work (at three main times – when the US East coast arrives, then when Europe comes to work, then the Far East). That corresponds to 7am, 5pm and 1am PDT, if you’re curious.

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Microsoft’s ChatGPT-powered Bing AI gets smarter with more local knowledge

Microsoft’s Bing AI just got some more improvements, including one that should make the chatbot considerably more helpful when it comes to providing tailored recommendations based on your local area.

In a blog post introducing the latest changes, Microsoft acknowledged that it had received feedback telling the company that the ChatGPT-powered Bing needed to do better with local-related queries.

In other words, specific requests such as asking for the whereabouts of a store in your neighborhood, for example.

Microsoft informs us that it has bolstered Bing’s chops in this regard, so it’ll deliver “better answers if you’re trying to find a park, a store, or a doctor’s office near you.”

Other tweaks Microsoft recently applied to its Bing chatbot include increasing the limit of the max turns you can take (queries) in a single conversation from 15 to 20. Based on the allowance of 10 daily sessions, that gives you a limit of 200 turns per day in total.

Image and video search capabilities are also integrated in the chatbot now. These will pop up as answer cards, allowing the user to click ‘see more’ to dive into further detail with a Bing image search.

Analysis: Pushing forward and besting Bard

Obviously beefing up the performance of the Bing AI to do better with local queries is an important move to make. It’s no good having an all-singing and dancing AI (you have asked the chatbot to sing to you already, right?) if it falls down embarrassingly when it comes to making basic recommendations about locations and services near you.

Mind you, the enhanced performance for these kind of queries sounds like it’s in the early stages of getting a good coat of polish. As Microsoft puts it: “Expect us to make further improvements in local grounding based on your feedback.”

Like everything with Microsoft’s ChatGPT-powered AI, then, it’s very much a work in progress. Still, the amount of progress being made is impressively sure and steady, which has got to be a worry for Google.

Google’s rival AI, Bard, has been notably slow off the starting blocks. Indeed, it feels like Google forced Bard onto the starting blocks before it had even laced its trainers, because the firm felt like the new Bing couldn’t be left unanswered, seeing as the ChatGPT-powered AI is already boosting traffic to Microsoft’s search engine.

We’re told that Bard will become more capable, and will receive improvements to its reasoning skills later this week, and it’s clear enough that Google recognizes it needs to move faster with its rival AI. At the same time, it can’t afford any missteps as seen with Bard’s launch (and to be fair, with the Bing AI’s launch too, although Microsoft seems to have recovered pretty well from the mishaps Bing encountered early on).

Our main worry about Microsoft is that the success of the Bing chatbot – so far – could go to the company’s head. There’s already worrying talk of jamming adverts into Bing AI, which we very much hope won’t happen. That’s probably a forlorn hope, and if it turns out that way, this could be an area that Bard could turn to its advantage. That said, it’s not like Google won’t be surveying every avenue of monetization down the line, too – it’d be pretty naïve to think otherwise.

Both companies would do well to remember that these AIs must be perceived as helpful friends, though, and not ones with a hidden agenda. Or, more to the point we suppose, a poorly hidden agenda which becomes painfully transparent…

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