Google is expected to release its widely anticipated AI chatbot Bard in the near future. But years ago, two ex-Google engineers pushed their former employer to release a similar chatbot to the public — and they were met with resistance, according to a new report from The Wall Street Journal.
Around 2018, Daniel De Freitas, who was a research engineer at Google, started working on an AI side project with the goal of creating a conversational chatbot that mimicked the ways humans speak, former colleagues told the Journal. Noam Shazeer, a software engineer for Google’s AI research unit, later joined the project.
Per the Journal, De Freitas and Shazeer were able to build a chatbot, which they called Meena, that could argue about philosophy, speak casually about TV shows, and generate puns about horses and cows. They believed that Meena could radically change the way people search online, their former colleagues told the Journal.
But their efforts to launch the bot — which they renamed LaMDA, which would become the language model behind Bard — reached an impasse after Google executives said the chatbot didn’t adhere to its AI safety and fairness standards, per the Journal. Executives thwarted multiple attempts made by the engineers to send the bot to external researchers, add the chat feature to Google Assistant, and launch a demo to the public, the Journal reported.