Google brings its AI chatbot Bard into its inner circle, opening door to Gmail, Maps, YouTube

Google is introducing Bard, its artificially intelligent chatbot, to other members of its digital family — including Gmail, Maps and YouTube — as it seeks ward off competitive threats posed by similar technology run by Open AI and Microsoft.

Bard's expanded capabilities announced Tuesday will be provided through an English-only extension that will enable users to allow the chatbot to mine information embedded in their Gmail accounts as well as pull directions from Google Maps and find helpful videos on YouTube. The extension will also open a door for Bard to fetch travel information from Google Flights and extract information from documents stored on Google Drive.

Google is promising to protect users' privacy by prohibiting human reviewers from seeing the potentially sensitive information that Bard gets from Gmail or Drive, while also promising that the data won't used as part of the main way the Mountain View, California, company makes money — selling ads tailored to people's interests.

The expansion is the latest development in an escalating AI battle triggered by the popularity of OpenAI’s ChatGPT chatbot and Microsoft’s push to infuse similar technology in its Bing search engine and its Microsoft 365 suite that includes its Word, Excel and Outlook applications.

ChatGPT prompted Google to release Bard broadly in March and then start testing the use of more conversational AI within its own search results in May.

The decision to feed Bard more digital juice i n the midst of a high-profile trial that could eventually hobble the ubiquitous Google search engine that propels the $1.7 trillion empire of its corporate parent, Alphabet Inc.

In the biggest U.S. antitrust case in a quarter century, the U.S Justice Department is alleging Google has created its lucrative search monopoly by abusing its power to stifle competition and innovation. Google contends it dominates search because its algorithms produce the best results. It also argues it faces a wide variety of competition that is becoming more intense with the rise of AI.

Giving Bard access to a trove of personal information and other popular services such as Gmail, Google Maps and YouTube, in theory, will make them even more helpful and prod more people to rely in them.

Google, for instance, posits that Bard could help a user planning a group trip to the Grand Canyon by getting dates that would work for everyone, spell out different flight and hotel options, provide directions from Maps and present an array of informative videos from YouTube.

Michael Liedtke, The Associated Press