Bing Chat, the ChatGPT-infused search engine preview that’s all the rage, is now on your iPhone and Android phones, where I found it just as wild as it was on desktop.
Actually, it’s wilder. Unlike the desktop, the mobile ChatGPT Bing has the additional special ingredient of a voice. That’s right, Bing is talking to you. There’s a certain irony in that the most interesting thing Microsoft has done in years is also a moment to reflect on the company’s last crazy foray into voice-activated assistants: Cortana.
You remember Cortana, right? If you have ever played gloriole, then you have at least a passing knowledge of the AI assistant who helped Master Chief navigate his world. This fictional AI persona was so popular that Microsoft adopted the moniker as a codename for its own real-world AI assistant, then kept the name when it introduced it a decade ago.
Cortana never lived up to its AI promise and was eventually deprecated and eventually removed from Microsoft products.
Another chance for speech AI
Now we have a new AI voice chatbot from Microsoft and OpenAi (via a modified version of ChatGPT) that doesn’t have its own name but simply lives in Bing.
However, knowing the history of Microsoft and having played with Bing chat on my desktop for two weeks, I couldn’t resist spending some voice-to-voice time on Bing Mobile.
I re-downloaded the Bing search app, mobile software I haven’t touched in years.
While the desktop places the large “Ask me anything…” prompt window front and center, I had to select the small “b” icon at the bottom of the Bing app screen to access the AI-powered chat .
Once installed, you still need to decide whether you want the app to track you (I always say “no”) and give it access to your microphone so Bing can hear your request (say “yes”).
It’s weird, but I have what’s best called AI scared. When faced with an artificial intelligence that asks me to “ask anything,” I freeze because I can’t think of a single good question.
help along the way
I finally settled on “Bing, write me a haiku about being on iPhone,” which I spoke to the app.
Note that you don’t have to start with “Bing”. It’s not a catchphrase and activating the ChatGPT AI-powered Bing required pressing the Bing button.
Bing took a considerable amount of time before replying. One thing I noticed is that Bing also says what it’s looking for based on your query. It’s cumbersome, but also useful in case you hear that Bing has been misunderstood and you want to stop Bing’s search.
After a few moments, Bing recited this original haiku in a female voice that sounded a bit like Cortana:
On the iPhone screen
A world full of information
Bing is here to help
Not bad and yes it hit the 5-7-5 syllable limit for each haiku line.
Next, I asked Bing to come up with a romantic seafood and rice dinner for two. The only limitation is that the preparation time had to be less than 30 minutes.
After another long wait, the Bing AI chat told me about two recipes and asked me which one I would like. However, this is where the conversation aspect breaks down a bit. Instead of leaving the mic open to get my reply, I found I had to press the mic button again. After that I told Bing that I chose the “second”. Bing then kindly provided the salmon and rice recipe, which would have read it out in full if I’d let it.
Finally, I asked Bing AI Chat to play a game of Tic-Tac-Toe with me.
Bing happily agreed and presented a text-only game board and, without asking me, made the first move as an “X”. Every time one of us made a move, it told the board not only the location of the “X” and “O” but also the dashes and plus signs used to make it. Well, I could live with this awkwardness for now.
After a few tokes, I was ready to block Bing AI chat for a win. Unfortunately, Bing cheated and insisted it won, even though the board showed it didn’t.
Aside from its sketchy moves, the mobile version of Bing AI is relatively immersive. Microsoft still has to work on the speed if it’s going to be a true conversational AI and rival Siri and Alexa. Otherwise, Cortana might have given her digital life for nothing.