You no longer need to join a waitlist to use Bing's chat feature.
Microsoft is opening up its Bing AI search and chatbot service to more people. On Thursday, the tech giant said it's doing away with the waitlist that had gated access to the OpenAI GPT-boosted search and also revealed third-party apps and services will be able to to build on top of its platform.
The new Bing preview, which emerged in a closed beta in February, is available to anyone around the world age 13 or older that has a Microsoft account. The feature remains limited to the Edge browser on computers and the Bing app and Edge browser on phones and tablets.
Bing users have held more than 500 million chat sessions since February and created over 200 million images since Bing's generative imagery feature arrived in late March, said Yusuf Mehdi, Microsoft's consumer chief marketing officer, at an event in New York ahead of the update. More than 100 million people use Bing every day, he said, though acknowledging that the figure was "super tiny relative to all the searches" people are doing.
Although the waitlist is gone, Mehdi does note that the product is still in a "preview" stage for the company. "We're still learning, but we're ready to take that next step," he said. "All of the work these last couple of months, all of the work we've done on safety and responsible AI, we think is landing in a way that has us comfortable to do that next step."
Among other new features as part of this "next step" include the ability to save and come back to chat sessions, export and share chats as well as have the Bing AI integrate photos and videos into its responses.
In the future, Mehdi says the company plans to expand to incorporate "multimodal" functionality, allowing users to search by uploading a photo and having the AI analyze and respond accordingly. That feature, however, is still not ready for launch and Microsoft would not reveal when it might appear.
Beyond user feedback, Microsoft is also working to allow third-party integration into Bing AI, with Mehdi demoing the ability to ask Bing for recommendations for restaurants and then utilizing OpenTable to book a reservation.
Those who use the Edge browser may also notice some new Bing features, including the ability to have the AI organize tabs for you as well as follow you while you browse the web after clicking on a link it recommends.
The timing of Microsoft's announcement comes one week ahead of the big Google I/O developer conference. The Microsoft rival, which dominates search with its namesake engine as well the browser market with Chrome, has its own AI product it calls Bard. Google similarly announced Bard in February and opened it up a bit more to those in the US and UK back in March.
As for concerns that Microsoft and other companies are moving too quickly with their AI products, Mehdi thinks open testing is the right way.
"We believe to bring this technology to market in the right and responsible way is to test out in the open, is to have people come see it, to play with it, to get feedback," Mehdi said.
"In our minds, you have to go through this. You have to be grounded in great, responsible AI principles and approach which we've done for many years. And then you have to get out and you have to test that, and you have to get the feedback. And we think that's the right way to do it."
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