Microsoft's new Bing and Edge hands-on: Surprisingly well-integrated AI

Microsoft had a fuller slate of news to share at its event in Redmond, WA today. Through a partnership with ChatGPT maker OpenAI, Microsoft is adding more advanced AI conversation models to power updates to Bing and Edge. It's like ChatGPT built right into your browser.

Video Transcript

CHERLYNN LOW: The age of generative AI in our search engines is upon us. Just this week, both Google and Microsoft made major announcements about integrating conversational AI into their products. And while Google really just kind of unveiled that its Lambda-powered conversation engine will be called Bard, today Microsoft had a whole slate of announcements about changes coming to its Edge browser and the Bing search engine.

The new Bing and the new Edge will be available to select lists of people starting today, and will be available on mobile as well as desktop. We were lucky enough to be in the select group to be able to check this out.


I want to start with Bing. The four changes are coming in terms of search, answers, chat, and create. Search is kind of the most obvious and direct change. In fact, when you go to the new, you'll notice that the search box is different. It's bigger now, instead of a single line input field for text, you get a box that looks more like the submission or creation boxes in Twitter or Facebook. The character limit here is 1,000, and you're supposed to be encouraged to be a bit more conversational in your queries this time. There's stuff under the hood about how the new Bing understands your search inputs now. It's using updated AI-powered models to better understand or contextualize your queries. That's going to be stuff we can demo in this video.

The second part is answers. What you can visually see is a new column to the right in addition to the typical search results on the left. And this little box here will show how Bing thought about what answers is serving you. It's taking in cues like your geolocation, your previous history, the types of sources that are available, for example. It's also looking to improve itself over time. So there's also a new kind of feedback box on the top right of this dialog that allows you to tell Bing whether you like the results or not.

But on to the two next components, which to me, are actually the most interesting new developments in the new Bing. The first is chat. Now if you scroll up or swipe down from the answers page, you'll go into the chat window. You can also do this by tapping the chat link on the top of the results. Now, in some of my testing with the new Bing, when I scrolled up, the chat interface was already looking for answers to the query I had put in on the Bing home page. This didn't work the same way all the time. Sometimes I had to repeat my query. Basically think of this layout as the physical manifestation of what Microsoft is calling your AI copilot.

In here you're encouraged to be way more conversational than you would be with say, Bing's regular search bar, or even a Google search. So after you get your initial round of answers from Bing, you can follow up with questions without all every little bit of the keywords or context that you provided earlier and the system will still know what it is that you're talking about. In fact, it will keep all the context until you hit that sweep or the broom icon to the left of the input field to start a new topic and clean the slate altogether.

So very frequently, I was just asking it to generate schedules, itineraries, meal plans, and workout plans for me. And in my follow-ups, for example, when I asked it to generate a 30 minute abs and arms workout with no sit-ups, I then follow-up with, how about an hour long version? And it was able to just use that and repeat the same search, but change 30 minutes to an hour. This interface, honestly, feels kind of familiar to anyone who has worked with a chat support agent on your bank or your shopping website, so far.

It's just a little bit more natural because you're not fully relying on prompts, or badges, to take you through the process. And you don't need to wait till you reach a actual human agent for the conversation to then feel more natural. In fact, I've been very impressed by how the language has been very conversational so far in the new Bing's chat interface.

Create is really where the implementation or the integration with OpenAI's ChatGPT shines. Like I said before, we were able to use this to come up with meal plans as demonstrated during the keynote, workout routines, or travel itineraries. I recently had a very harrowing experience trying to come up with a travel plan for my family of five for Los Angeles so I decided to make Bing do all that bad work for me. It was actually able to come up with a proposed plan for a six-day trip to Los Angeles for me, and it actually suggests places that other people who live in Los Angeles have told me I have to go see.

Now, of course, I didn't get this answer perfectly on my first attempt with the new Bing. Actually it took a few attempts to actually get the result that I was expecting. It looked like I needed to be very precise in my language for a bit, but then it felt like there's some machine learning here. There's understanding what I actually am looking for, because on subsequent attempts, I actually did get the results I wanted.

At the moment the chat interface is also just text based. I mean, there are some links that it'll share that have previews that are including videos and pictures. But eventually, for example, if you're asking for an itinerary to Snoqualmie and you're asking it subsequently tell you what the best spots for photography are, it might be able to include pictures within this chat interface itself. And so you can see for yourself exactly what the most Instagram-worthy areas are.

The new Bing will be available to anyone, as long as you go to I mean, that's obviously-- it has to come out of beta. But if you use Edge, there are a few more additional bonuses that you can use.

So the main benefit of the AI Copilot feature in Edge is that you can use these new Bing features regardless of what website you're on. Just by pressing the new B sort of button on the top right of the page, you can open the Bing AI Copilot. There are two main pages here. One is the basic chat interface, as well as Compose, and we'll get to that later. During a demo, Microsoft showed off how it was able to go to a Gap earnings report and get the Bing assistant to kind of summarize and show you the key takeaways from here.

What I thought was very impressive was that during the demo, they were able to just tell Bing or Edge to compare the results to a rival company's. So it's telling me not only the stats that it found, but also that it's saying therefore Lululemon performed better than Gap, in terms of revenue, comparable sales, and earnings per share in the fourth quarter of 2021.

I'm going to try to get it to generate a table. Let's see. So it's now starting a search for Lululemon's financial results and actually making a table within this window. That's really impressive. I've not seen anything AI-base sort of do that on its own before. I can really imagine using this come up with specs tables comparing, say the Galaxy S23 Ultra, the Galaxy S22 Ultra, really just simplifying my workflow for me.

That's probably scratching the surface of what you can do with this new feature. I haven't spent that much time with it yet. And I can't wait to go into a deeper dive to tell you more.

For now though, what's also interesting is you can go over to the creator compose panel and that unlocks a lot more features. Probably the most relatable use case of this feature is in writing emails. Now, I take a lot of personal joy in crafting witty, charming emails to get my friends to do things. But if you're not that sort of person, and you just want a machine to do that for you, you now have the option. So I asked Edge to craft an email for me convincing my head of video, Brian O, to come with me on this trip to Seattle.

Over on the Create Page, it has a different prompt box that asks what you want to write about. And then there's a lot of little questions afterwards to set parameters like, what sort of format is this. Is it an email? Is it a post? You can also define parameters like the tone, whether it be professional, funny, or enthusiastic, as well as the length between short, medium, and long. Hit Generate and a draft will come out that you can paste over into your compose screen with just one click.

So far this has been just a few hours of a preview with the new Bing and Edge. And honestly, I feel like there's so much more I can do and try. So this is just a hands-on of what we saw today. Of course, I'll be eagerly and excitedly testing the rest of this out because it kind of feels like we're in a new era. What can AI do for us? And what should we let it do for us? These are questions that Microsoft and its partner, OpenAI are considering. It is at the top of their minds as they explore this process.

We will continue to keep watch on this as well, along with more testing of the new Bing and the new Edge. For that and more coverage of the World of AI, consumer technology, and more, make sure you subscribe to Engadget.