Bing search engine to rival Google

AP
Microsoft on Wednesday rolled out new features on its Bing search engine powered by artificial intelligence
AP
Imaginechina

Harry Shum, executive vice president of Microsoft’s Artificial Intelligence and Research, speaks at a Microsoft event in San Francisco. 

Microsoft on Wednesday rolled out new features on its Bing search engine powered by artificial intelligence, including one that summarizes the two opposing sides of contentious questions, and another measuring how many reputable sources are behind an answer.

Tired of delivering misleading information when their algorithms are gamed by trolls and purveyors of fake news? Microsoft and its tech-company rivals have been going out of their way to show they can be purveyors of good information — either by using better algorithms or hiring more human moderators.

Microsoft is also trying to distinguish its second-place search engine from long-dominant Google and position itself as an innovator in finding real-world applications for the latest advances in artificial intelligence.

“As a search engine we have a responsibility to provide answers that are comprehensive and objective,” said Jordi Ribas, Microsoft’s corporate vice president for AI products.

Bing’s new capabilities are designed to give users more confidence that an answer is correct and save time so they don’t have to click through multiple links to validate it themselves.

“You could be asking, ‘is coffee good for you?’ We know that there are no good answers for that,” Ribas said. But the new search features side-by-side opposing perspectives. One source emphasizes coffee’s ability to increase metabolism and another shows it can raise blood pressure. Similar questions can also be asked on sensitive topics, such as whether the death penalty is a good idea.

On more complicated questions — is there a God? — Bing doesn’t have enough confidence to provide a pro-con perspective. But on questions that involve numbers, it boils information down into digestible doses. Iraq, for instance, is described as “about equal to the size of California.”

As machines get better at reading and summarizing paragraphs, users expect not just a list of links but a quick and authoritative answer, said Harry Shum, who leads Microsoft’s 8,000-person research and AI division. The demand for more sophisticated searches has also grown as people have moved from typing questions to voicing them on the road or in their kitchen.


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