DuckDuckGo dives into AI search

Privacy-focused search engine DuckDuckGo followed Microsoft And Google to be the latest veteran searcher to join the general AI trend — announcing the beta launch of an AI-powered summary feature, called DuckAssist, that can respond directly to queries Simple search query for users.

DDG says it is drawing on natural language technology from OpenAI, maker of ChatGPT, OpenAI, and Anthropic, an AI startup founded by former OpenAI employees, to power its capabilities. natural language abstraction capabilities, combined with their own active indexing of Wikipedia and other reference sites they are using to source. answer (encyclopedia Britannia is another source it refers to).

Founder Gabe Weinberg told TechCrunch that the sources it is using for DuckAssist — currently — “99%+ Wikipedia.” But he notes that the company is “experimenting how combining other sources might work and when to use them” — which suggests the company may be looking to tailor sourcing for relevant to the context of the query (e.g., a DuckAssist news-related search query may better respond to sourcing information from trusted media). So it remains to be seen how DDG will develop this feature — and whether it might, for example, seek to sign partnerships with reference sites.

At launch, DuckAssist was only available through DDG’s apps and browser extensions — but the company says it plans to roll it out to all search users in the coming weeks. The beta feature is free to use and does not require users to log in to access. It is only available in English for now.

According to Weinberg, the AI ​​models that DDG (“currently”) is using to power natural language summarization are: Davinci model from OpenAI and Claude model from Anthropic. He also noted that DDG is “experimenting” with the recently announced OpenAI Turbo model.

It’s worth noting that DDG’s search engine already has an Instant Answers feature enabled for certain types of queries and also provides answers directly above the regular linked list. (Example cases include if you’re asking a search engine to sum basic calculations, display a calendar for the current month, or request chunks of fact.)

However, DDG says that adding generalized AI summaries has allowed it to expand the number of queries that can be answered directly in this way — calling the addition of general AI to the mix here “Payments.” fully integrated instant message”.

“The two main benefits over other instant replies are that DuckAssist answers are more directly responsive to user questions and DuckAssist can answer significantly more questions,” Weinberg told us. I. “The generalized artificial intelligence behind DuckAssist generates new text for a specific query, where standard instant responses typically pull citations. This way, DuckAssist can respond more directly to queries, quickly display information buried in articles, and aggregate information from multiple Wikipedia snippets. As a result, it can answer more questions.”

DuckAssist is intended to help search engine users find the actual information faster — so it only appears as an option when the technology evaluates that it can help with a particular query.

“If you search for a question in any DuckDuckGo app or browser extension and DuckAssist thinks it can find the answer from Wikipedia, you might see a magic wand icon and a ‘ button ‘ Ask me’ at the top of my search results. DDG explained.

If an answer has been previously requested by another DDG user, the company says it will be displayed automatically — but it also notes that users can choose to turn off Instant Answers ( include DuckAssist) in the settings if they don’t want to be exposed to AI-generated synthesis.

Weinberg says the feature works by using AI to generate new natural language responses “based on specific/relevant sections of Wikipedia articles” that DDG provides through the process. scan your own sources. (He identified DDG as using its own indexing technology “to identify relevant passages of text from Wikipedia, then ask models to format responses in a way that responds directly to query”.)

Accuracy is a major concern associated with applications of general AI — as the technology can tend to produce automated information and output presented in a natural language wrapper that can may sound authoritative despite not being fact-tested.

To this, Weinberg says DuckAssist has been designed to increase the likelihood of getting the correct answer while also providing users with information that the answer is automated — and pointing them to the resources they need to go to. can check for authenticity itself (e.g. if it turns out DuckAssist is more of an ‘asshole’ than an assistant).

“The job of a search engine is to display reliable information quickly. We designed DuckAssist in a way that takes advantage of what natural language technology does well while trying to increase the likelihood that it will give the right answer when it appears in search results. We did that by intentionally limiting the sources that DuckAssist was summarizing from,” he said. “Currently, DuckAssist only gets answers from Wikipedia and a few related sources, like Britannica. This greatly limits the ability of DuckAssist to generate inaccurate information or ‘hallucinations’, where the AI ​​engine generates random information.

“However, we know that won’t be 100% true — If we don’t provide the best text [to the AI] to summarize, for example, or if Wikipedia itself has errors. In all cases, we label every answer as not independently checked for accuracy and provide a link to the most relevant Wikipedia article for more information.”

On the privacy front, DDG promises this AI-powered search is anonymous — and, in line with its leading privacy commitment, DDG further emphasizes that no data is shared with any third parties that DDG works with to integrate general AI capabilities into its search. engine. (In the blog post, Weinberg also determined that users’ anonymous searches were not used to train vendor AI models.)

It asks users to give feedback on the quality of DuckAssist summaries — through a feedback link displayed next to all DuckAssist responses, as part of its approach to addresses general AI accuracy — and says this response is also anonymous with user reports sent only to DDG itself, not to any third parties.

While the launch of DuckAssist means more autoresponders will inevitably appear to respond to user queries, DDG notes that the feature will still only be available to a handful of searches. — as it is intended only to help with relatively simple requests. It adds that putting search query terms as a question makes the feature more likely to appear in search results.

“Creative artificial intelligence is making a big hit in the world of search and browsing,” Weinberg wrote in a blog post announcing what he said was “the first in a series of features that support Innovative AI that we hope to launch in the coming months.” “At DuckDuckGo, we tried to understand the difference between what it can do well Future and what it can do well right away. But no matter how we decide to use this new technology, we want it to add obvious value to our private browsing and search experience.”

DDG is also developing more AI-enabled browser and search features, with additional AI-related news expected in the coming months. (Though he won’t get hooked on it cooking something else – just say “stay tuned!”.)

Here is a clip of the DuckAssist feature in action for a search query asking “is an Antarctic country” — showing users being encouraged to enable DuckAssist (“ask”) and when doing so There, they receive a summary response in natural language, displayed above the source (Wikipedia) and referencing the section of the article it was taken from:

In their blog post, DDG explains that they chose Wikipedia as the primary source for DuckAssist because the community-powered encyclopedia is already the primary source for their current Instant Answers feature, and despite unclear but they rate it as “relatively reliable on a variety of topics”.

It also points out that Wikipedia has the added benefit of being a public resource “with a transparent editorial process that cites all sources used in an article, you can easily follow the exact Where does its information come from?

Plus Wikipedia is of course constantly being updated — expanding the queries that DuckAssist can meaningfully respond to. That said, there is still lag in the knowledge graph – as DDG notes that “right now” the DuckAssist Wikipedia index can be up to “a few weeks old”. (But it says it plans to “make it even more recent”, in addition to adding more sources “soon”.)

It’s worth noting that DDG’s current generation Instant Answers aren’t always right either.

At the time of this writing, a DDG search for “people in space” has produced a stack of ten astronaut tags that it suggests are currently in orbit — however, it shows photos of the astronauts. US member Kayla Barron twice; once on her own tag and once (incorrectly) paired with the tag of German astronaut Matthias Maurer. So error-prone technology shortcuts are nothing new.

However, the power of generalized AI to automate more interactions – and in this case respond to more types of search queries – can cause greater distortion in the information landscape by greatly expands the ability of platforms to apply such shortcuts increasing the probability of their users encountering technology-generated errors.

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