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This AI chatbot may bring us closer to a robot takeover

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Illustration by Kate Walker

This AI chatbot may bring us closer to a robot takeover

 

The Future. ChatGPT, an AI-powered chatbot launched by the AI research and deployment company OpenAI (co-founded by Elon Musk), went viral yesterday due to its impressive ability to provide detailed, human-like responses to users’ questions and prompts. While this new tool outshines most virtual assistance on the market, it could one day threaten content creators, spread misinformation, and even eliminate the need for human voices.

The ultimate AMA
What makes ChatGPT so exciting is that users can ask it anything, and it will answer pretty much anything.

  • Trained on a vast sample of online information, ChatGPT is a massive language model designed to answer questions through a conversational interface.
  • It hails from the same company behind DALL-E, which generates images in response to user prompts.
  • Some users are getting very creative, reports CNN Business, from rewriting “Baby Got Back” in the style of The Canterbury Tales to offering fairytale-inspired home decor tips to spitting out a five-paragraph essay about Wuthering Heights.

The new Google
Real-world applications of ChatGPT are seemingly endless, maintains The Guardian. The tool can write code, generate website content, answer customer questions, and provide descriptions and recommendations — among many other solutions to complex problems.

With every pro, there’s a con. Beyond spreading misinformation, ChatGPT could hurt creative industries and perpetuate biases based on the pool of data on which it’s trained.

“It is very easy for the model to give plausible-sounding but incorrect or nonsensical answers,” warns Lian Jye Su, a research director at ABI Research. “It guessed when it was supposed to clarify and sometimes responded to harmful instructions or exhibited biased behavior. It also lacks regional and country-specific understanding.”

While radical AI can be a game-changer and life-saver in many ways, it still doesn’t have that human je ne sais quoi.

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big-tech-AI-voice-assistants-thefutureparty

Big Tech mutes voice assistants

big-tech-AI-voice-assistants-thefutureparty
Illustration by Kate Walker

Big Tech mutes voice assistants

 

The Future. AI-powered voice assistants are losing their luster in the revenue-seeking halls of tech giants such as Amazon, Apple, and Google. While making money from products such as Alexa may be nice, human behavior dictates that they are better for information and as task machines than a way to buy products. But if Amazon, specifically, figured out a way to give users a “last look” on their phone before making a purchase through Alexa, users may feel more comfortable changing their buying behavior.

Alexa… Alexa?
One day, Alex and Siri may not answer back.

  • Axios reports that despite immense popularity when it was introduced in 2014 with the Echo device, Amazon’s Alexa has been deemed a “colossal failure of imagination” and a  “wasted opportunity” by insiders at the company.
  • Why? Amazon is set to lose $10 billion from the division this year, prompting the company to lay off a sizable portion of its team.
  • That’s because Amazon believed people would order more products using Alexa, such as buying pizza on the fly or ordering a book sight unseen.
  • But that really hasn’t happened, with people opting to use it (billions of interactions per week, by the way) more for simple commands and information.

But Alexa isn’t the only voice assistant to suffer this fate. Criticisms have been mounting on Siri for a while, Google cut back on its Google Assistant, and Microsoft’s Cortana and Samsung’s Bixby are pretty silent on the market.

E-avesdropping
Despite Alexa usage growing 30% last year, Voicebot Research found that fewer Americans are using voice assistants overall. What led to the decline?

  • DataGrail found that 82% of respondents to a 2020 survey had concerns about data collection from tech such as voice-assistant-equipped devices.
  • Bloomberg reported in 2019 that Amazon employed thousands of people to listen in on conversations recorded through Alexa.
  • Also, in 2019, The Guardian uncovered that Apple shared some private conversations recorded with Siri with contractors.

While those revelations may scare off customers, voice assistants still have several meaningful use cases, including executing tasks while driving, making VR/AR headsets more intuitive to use, and powering connected devices all around the home.

Like most things in tech, there are tradeoffs.

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AI hopes to connect the living with the deceased

Illustration by Melody Song using DALLE-2

AI hopes to connect the living with the deceased

 

The Future. Scientists, psychologists, and researchers are using AI to connect people with their loved ones who have passed on. That artificial connection has taken the form of lifelike avatars, voice-accurate chatbots, and recreations in virtual reality. The tech may help ease feelings of loss — or simply make grieving a more drawn-out experience.

In the cloud
According to WaPo, researchers are trying to use AI to ease the grieving process.

  • Augmented Eternity, being built by Toronto Metropolitan University professor Hossein Rahnama, will be able to create a “digital persona” of a dead person that loved ones can communicate with by analyzing things like photos, texts, emails, and social media posts.
  • Amazon Alexa introduced a new feature that allows stories to be read from a deceased person’s voice. The AI only needs to listen to a minute of a person’s voice in order to extrapolate the chatbot.
  • HereAfter AI, originally created by James Vlahos so he could speak with his dad, interviews people before they pass and then creates a voice-accurate chatbot from their responses that family and friends can talk to.
  • Luka, built by Eugenia Kuyda after tragically losing her friend in a hit-and-run, is also a chatbot for the deceased. The company also launched a system called “Replika” so anyone could build a digital version of themselves.
  • Somnium Space, the VR metaverse world, is launching a feature called “Live Forever,” which allows users to create AI duplicates of themselves so loved ones can visit their eternal digital avatars and touch them via haptic suits.

And in 2020, a Korean documentary team created a VR version of a 7-year-old girl named Na-yeon — she passed a week after being diagnosed with a rare disease. Her mother, Jang Ji-Sun, was able to say goodbye (something she never did in real life) using the technology.

The footage is heartbreaking and beautiful.

Just one more conversation
Throughout all of time, people have tried to listen to, re-engage, or communicate with the dead, especially loved ones. What AI, chatbots, and VR do is make the experience immersive and interactive in a way that has never been possible before.

Whether or not this kind of communication is beneficial to the grieving process is another thing entirely. Clinical psychologist Albert “Skip” Rizzo, a research professor at the University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences asks, “By giving somebody the ability to see their loved one again, is that going to give them some solace, or is it going to become like an addiction?”

For many of us, we’ll one day find out.

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Notion-AI-Writing-Tool-thefutureparty

Notion wants to write for you

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Courtesy of Notion

Notion wants to write for you

 

The Future. Notion, the company behind the popular note-taking software, is slowly testing a new AI tool that can generate almost any type of written document you need. It could have massive effects on the job market, on the honest origins of communication, and, please excuse the pun, the notion of original expression. If adopted, it could one day usher in an age where most writers — outside of storytellers like authors, screenwriters, and playwrights — never have to face the tyranny of the blank page.

Delegate to AI
Notion wants to do a lot more than use AI to finish your sentences.

  • The Verge reports that Notion is debuting a private alpha of a new software called Notion AI — an AI tool to generate actual writing.
  • That includes things like a blog post, an outline, a sales email, a job description, a list of products, and even a pros and cons list for any topic.
  • It works by selecting what you want the program to generate and then inputting what it should be about. The AI then writes it right in front of you.

Notion is also working on crafting the software for companies or individuals (probably for a hefty fee) so that the AI is trained to write in their specific voice and have access to proprietary info.

AI brain
While there are other AI-driven writing tools out there (Grammarly, Jasper, Wordcraft), Notion wants to be the go-to platform to code the “vomit draft,” with CEO Ivan Zhao saying it solves the “cold start problem.” Each generation is meant to be a starting point that can be tweaked and edited, not a final product.

But if the art of filling the blank page is relegated to software, is Notion AI trading a human-driven craft that can bring out a company’s personality for a more efficient system that lowers costs? Is it a stepping stone to AI being used to generate thought?

Food for… an AI.

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Linktree-Paywall-Payment-Lock-thefutureparty

Linktree lets creators paywall… everything

Linktree-Paywall-Payment-Lock-thefutureparty
Courtesy of Linktree

Linktree lets creators paywall… everything

 

The Future. Linktree is growing its influence with the rollout of “Payment Lock.” The new feature will allow users to make any unindexed file monetizable. In other words, they can turn any story, photo, or video into something people have to pay for online — and all easily listable in one place. If the feature becomes a way to monetize content on major platforms like TikTok or Instagram, expect some serious lawsuits… or for those platforms to turn any post into a microtransaction.

Pay in bio
Linktree doesn’t just want you to list out links to all of your content — it wants you to paywall them.

  • TechCrunch reports that Linktree is beta testing a feature called “Payment Lock.”
  • It allows users to paywall “Classic Links,” which are standalone links to items like files, PDFs, playlists, videos, or messaging groups, for up to $150.
  • The payments only work for one-time transactions, not monthly subscriptions, and users will have access to the content even if the link on Linktree gets deleted.
  • The feature will only be available to those who subscribe to Linktree’s Pro Tier, which also includes monetization tools for e-commerce and NFTs.

With Linktree driving “1.5 billion monthly unique visits to linked content” for over 30 million users, Linktree could be at the center of a lot of transactions… but the company said that it won’t take any fee (for now, we’re sure).

One link to rule them all
TechCrunch’s Ingrid Lunden notes that there’s an interesting opportunity for Linktree to paywall features on other platforms natively — such as paywalling a TikTok, a new single on Spotify, or a Discord community.

While that may require some workarounds (and a blind eye from those native apps), that could allow Linktree to become the go-to way to paywall for whatever you want on the internet… and put those lines of revenue in one easy-to-navigate list.

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BeReal may capture a social-media future without ads

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BeReal may capture a social-media future without ads

 

The Future. Brands want BeReal to be the next big social media player, giving them the opportunity to get those coveted Gen Z eyeballs before the platform becomes too saturated. The problem is that BeReal’s platform is antithetical to the tenants of advertising — capturing as many eyeballs for as long as possible. As BeReal looks for a monetization plan, the best way to find success may be by leaning into the tenants that make the platform fresh — appointment viewing for the social media age.

Brands out of frame
BeReal doesn’t want ads… and may not even be the right place for them.

  • Per Digiday, the once-a-day photo-sharing platform has captured 73.5 million users, so advertisers like Chipotle, e.l.f. Cosmetics, and Shake Shack have followed them there.
  • But there’s little for them to do (and limits to how many friends they can add), so they’ve creatively started using the platform to offer discount codes and other ephemeral content.
  • But BeReal doesn’t allow for traditional ads (it says so in its user agreement) and has said it’s “heads down, focused on the product and the mission.”
  • Additionally, it makes little sense for advertisers to push in all their chips on BeReal — the platform is designed for people to spend minimal time on it.

Analysts believe that the app will eventually opt into finding a way to paywall bonus features instead of turning to ads (this is a platform built on authenticity, after all).

It mimics what the big players are already doing — monetizing influencers just as the ad market slows down and measurement tracking gets kneecapped by Apple and Google.

Hurry up and get paid
But with $60 million in funding after a Series B round (which analysts expect to give the company a valuation of over $600 million), investors will eventually want to see a return on BeReal. We’ve been through an era of growth for growth’s sake for the past decade, and Wall Street has turned sharply away from that ethos. Now, the plan for actually making a profit rules the roost.

And with the flash-in-the-pan popularity of Clubhouse showing what happens when you don’t find a way to monetize in time, BeReal may have no choice but figure out how to turn users into dollars. Or it may just have to watch its features get co-opted by copycats from TikTok and Instagram.

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OpenSea is guaranteeing creators NFT royalties — at their peril

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Illustration by Kate Walker

OpenSea is guaranteeing creators NFT royalties — at their peril

 

The Future. OpenSea is considering nixing royalties for old NFTs. They also plan to give creators the option to guarantee that they’re paid royalties for new ones, but if creators do this, then collectors won’t be able to sell those NFTs on other markets which don’t pay royalties. While OpenSea claims the move protects creators’ freedoms, most just see it as a power play.

Sign here, get paid?
OpenSea will roll out a new code snippet that creators can choose to embed in their NFTs’ smart contracts to ensure that they receive royalties from subsequent transactions.

  • The caveat: OpenSea’s code snippet prevents an NFT from being sold on other marketplaces, making collectors far less likely to buy them. As a result, the NFT is stuck on OpenSea.
  • By design, OpenSea’s new initiative can’t be retroactively applied to old NFT collections…
  • This matters because OpenSea has also just announced that they’re considering eliminating royalties for existing NFTs. It’s their way or the highway, in other words.

Creators can opt out of OpenSea’s code snippet, but if they do, they can’t guarantee receipt of royalties, which are optional without the code snippet.

Stormy Waters
Most NFT marketplaces have already moved away from royalties, and not because they want to screw artists over. On the contrary — they object that a royalty system creates a business model that rewards creators for flooding the market, which devalues existing NFTs and, in turn, owners’ collections. Collectors lose, and artists have to work harder.

By instituting a royalty system for new NFTs and removing it for old ones, OpenSea appears to be urging creators to do precisely this — create a larger supply to earn more royalties. And all of this would happen on OpenSea’s platform, choking off rival marketplaces.

But that will only happen if creators actually take OpenSea’s bait. At the moment, it’s unclear if they will.

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Google and Apple battle for the passenger seat

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Illustration by Kate Walker

Google and Apple battle for the passenger seat

 

The Future. Google and Apple are rolling out several software offerings to beef up the tech in your car — starting with the infotainment system but accelerating to include deeper vehicle functionality. With so much data being harvested in driver behavior and entertainment preferences, don’t be surprised if either tech giant uses that knowledge to finally build their own car in the near future.

iDrive
Google and Apple are in a race to power your car, reports WSJ.

Google

  • The tech giant has two systems — Android Auto and Android Automotive.
  • Android Auto is a phone-connected system that allows your device to be mirrored on your car’s infotainment system.
  • Android Automotive is a built-in operating system for vehicles that controls the infotainment system — making them almost “Android-powered tablets” that can be continually updated.
  • Additionally, Google can license car manufacturers’ select Android apps like Maps and Assistant through Google Automotive Services.
  • The company has already partnered with several automakers, such as Honda, BMW, and Chevrolet.

Apple

  • Apple’s CarPlay is similar to Android Auto, allowing drivers to mirror their iPhones on the car infotainment screen.
  • While Apple doesn’t yet have an answer to Android Automotive (that would require a level of tech sharing the company is not known for), an updated version of CarPlay may be inching closer to that kind of service.
  • Dubbed by some analysts as “CarOS,” the update could allow Apple to control your car’s “instrument cluster” — gauges that include MPH, RPM, and, for electric vehicles, the charge.
  • Apple has partnerships with Ford, Volvo, Mercedes, and Porsche.

Tech track
With cars essentially becoming, as WSJ’s Christopher Mims says, “smartphones on wheels,” automakers want in on the best and most user-friendly tech — especially as they’ve mostly failed to replicate it. But that comes with some tradeoffs.

  • They have to give up some control of the driver experience and the data that the software collects, especially as behemoths like Apple and Google run the show.
  • It gives up some revenue it would take in if it did the tech on its own, especially as more automakers pull a Tesla and offer over-air updates and upgrades.
  • Having a car tied to a tech giant’s operating system may limit resale value if a customer prefers one tech over the other.

While other tech companies are also vying for a seat in the car — Amazon, Nvidia, Qualcomm — the race for dominance between Google and Apple is leading the pack… and just heating up.

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