New DuckDuckGo Generative AI Feature Summarizes Wikipedia Articles for Instant Answers
DuckDuckGo released a new generative AI feature to answer search queries without leaving the search engine’s website. The new DuckAssist tool summarizes relevant parts of Wikipedia articles to provide answers and doesn’t engage in conversation with the user like Microsoft’s new Bing AI chatbot or what previews of Google’s Bard have promised. The company wants to offer the benefits of generative AI while staying true to its philosophy of privacy-centered search.
DuckAsist appears in response to a search query along with the standard list of links, serving to enhance the existing Instant Answers feature. As seen in the gif above, generative AI is used to compose a paragraph or two directly answering the question. The feature kicks in when an answer can be formulated from Wikipedia articles in almost all cases, though encyclopedic sources like Britannica are sometimes consulted. DuckAssist pulls from the most recent full Wikipedia download, released last month. OpenAI and Anthropic both provide the natural language technology needed to digest and summarize the answers. DuckAssist is embedded in all of DuckDuckGo’s apps and browser extensions in English, but the feature is still in beta. The company is scheduling a universal release over the next few weeks, assuming no major problems crop up during the testing phase. Users can also turn it off by disabling the instant answers feature in the search settings.
“This is the first in a series of generative AI-assisted features we hope to roll out in the coming months. We wanted DuckAssist to be the first because we think it can immediately help users find answers to what they are looking for faster,” DuckDuckGo CEO Gabriel Weinberg explained in a blog post announcing the feature. “DuckAssist is anonymous, with no logging in required. It’s a fully integrated part of DuckDuckGo Private Search, which is also free and anonymous. We don’t save or share your search or browsing history when you search on DuckDuckGo or use our browsing apps or browser extensions, and searches with DuckAssist are no exception. “
Answers, No Chat
Though DuckAssist shares generative AI DNA with the generative AI-powered Bing chatbot from Microsoft, DuckDuckGo’s creation deliberately limits its responses to short, direct answers from a limited set of sources and with no conversational abilities. In that way, it’s more like web browser Brave’s Summarizer, which pursues the same goal as DuckAssist but is built on Brave’s in-house AI models. Microsoft has rushed to bring the new Bing AI to mobile apps, the Windows 11 taskbar, and even Skype. That doesn’t mean there isn’t a demand for what DuckDuckGo has created. The limitations also mean DuckAssist is less likely to hallucinate wrong answers, or at least to require the kind of clamping down Bing’s AI required after some problematic or downright scary AI interactions came to light.
“Nonetheless, DuckAssist won’t generate accurate answers all of the time. We fully expect it to make mistakes,” Weinberg wrote. “Because there’s a limit to the amount of information the feature can summarize, we use the specific sentences in Wikipedia we think are the most relevant; inaccuracies can happen if our relevancy function is off, unintentionally omitting key sentences, or if there’s an underlying error in the source material given. DuckAssist may also make mistakes when answering especially complex questions, simply because it would be difficult for any tool to summarize answers in those instances.”