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Weekly AI recap: AI spotlighted at World Economic Forum, Microsoft AI Copilot update

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By Webb Wright | NY reporter

January 18, 2024 | 9 min read

AI steals the show at Davos

Davos

The annual World Economic Forum (WEF), a conference held in the glitzy ski town of Davos, Switzerland and attended by cadres of business magnates and world leaders, kicked off on Monday. This year, the subject that was at the top of most conference-goers' minds was, predictably, AI.

Image

The World Economic Forum gathers each year in Davos, Switzerland. / Adobe Stock

But whereas last year's conference was bubbling over with enthusiasm about the potential for new AI tools like ChatGPT to supercharge human creativity, the atmosphere this year has been a bit more sober. As countries around the world head into another election cycle, prominent speakers at the conference – including OpenAI CEO Sam Altman – have been discussing the political risks that the technology presents, including its capacity to generate deepfakes and other forms of misinformation, and the role that entrepreneurs and and governments ought to play in mitigating such risks.

In an on-stage interview with Bloomberg reporter Brad Stone, Altman emphasized his company’s commitment to combating misinformation in the upcoming global elections (see below) while also striking a positive note: “I believe that America is going to be fine no matter what happens in this election,” he said. “I believe that AI is going to be fine no matter what happens after this election.”

Copilot for Microsoft 365 released for all businesses

Copilot for Microsoft 365

Microsoft announced on Monday that Copilot for Microsoft 365 – which the company describes as “your everyday AI companion” – is now available for businesses of all sizes. The tech giant initially released Copilot in November to enterprise users with at least 300 employees who could commit to using the new platform.

Integrated into the Microsoft 365 suite of apps and leveraging technology from OpenAI, Copilot serves as a kind of ever-present digital assistant which can carry out a variety of tasks to boost user efficiency. (Picture Clippy on steroids.) It can, for example, summarize the discussion from a Microsoft Teams call for employees who were late to the meeting or unable to attend. Copilot “works across your entire universe of data at work — including emails, meetings, chats, documents and more, plus the web.” Microsoft executive vice president Yusuf Mehdi wrote in a blog post.

Smaller businesses that subscribe to Microsoft 365 Business Standard or Business Premium can now equip their teams with Copilot for $30 per user per month.

OpenAI unveils plan to minimize harms of AI during 2024 elections

DALL·E 3

OpenAI says that it’s taking active measures to prevent its tools – such as ChatGPT and its image-generating tool Dall-E 3 – from being abused during the upcoming gobal elections.

“As we prepare for elections in 2024 across the world’s largest democracies, our approach is to continue our platform safety work by elevating accurate voting information, enforcing measured policies and improving transparency,” the company wrote in a blog post published Monday. “We have a cross-functional effort dedicated to election work, bringing together expertise from our safety systems, threat intelligence, legal, engineering and policy teams to quickly investigate and address potential abuse.”

For example, the company says it will block GPT builders from creating chatbots designed to imitate real people (such as candidates running for office) or institutions, and that it's working on “several provenance efforts” aimed at making it easier for anyone to identify AI-generated images.

Recent and rapid innovations in AI have sparked concerns about bad actors using the technology to sow misinformation and confusion across the web, with potentially devestating consequences during a major election year. Tools like Dall-E 3 and Midjourney, for example, make it easy to generate photorealistic images of real people, and other AI tools are able to imitate human voices, like those of celebrities or politicians. AI-generated video, while still in its infancy, is also developing rapidly.

In the absence of federal regulation in the US and most other parts of the world, the onus of responsibility to prevent the abuse of AI-powered tools is falling on the shoulders of private companies. Meta, for example, recently introduced a new policy requiring the disclosuer of some political ads that have been modified by AI or another technology. TikTok has also taken steps to provide transparency for users around AI-generated content.

In stark contrast to the large workforces employed by both Meta and TikTok, OpenAI has fewer than 1,000 employees. But during an on-stage conversation at the World Economic Forum in Davos this week, OpenAI CEO Sam Altman reportedly rebuked the notion that a smaller team translates to a weaker ability to fight misinformation.

OpenAI does not currently allow the use of its tools for political campaign purposes.

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Amazon introduces new generative AI tool

Amazon

Ecommerce giant Amazon has launched a new tool powered by generative AI which will answer customer questions on the company’s app, according to a Tuesday report from Marketplace Pulse.

Unlike more advanced AI chatbots like ChatGPT and Google’s Bard, which are designed to respond to a vast variety of text-based prompts, Amazon’s new generative AI tool is only able to respond to questions that are related to Amazon products. It can also, however, pull off some ChatGPT-like tricks, such as writing a joke about a particular product.

The new feature is aimed at simplifying in the in-app shopping experience for Amazon customers. It can, for example, analyze a huge number of customer reviews about a particular product in order to answer a specific customer question.

Walmart also unveiled a new generative AI-powered feature last week at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas.

Samsung reveals new AI-powered smartphones

Circle to Search

Samsung Electronics introduced its new line of Galaxy S smartphones this week, including the S24, the S24+ and the S24+ Ultra. The new phones were described in a company blog post as the first in “a new era of mobile AI.”

Expected to begin shipping later this month, the new smartphones include a host of AI-powered features, including “Live Translate” – which allows immediate voice and text translation during phone calls – and “Circle to Search” – developed in collaboration with Google and enabling users to “circle, highlight, scribble on or tap anything on Galaxy S24’s screen [using a stylus] to see helpful, high-quality search results,” according to the blog post.

“The Galaxy S24 series transforms our connection with the world and ignites the next decade of mobile innovation,” TM Roh, President and Head of mobile experience (MX) business at Samsung Electronics, said in a statement. “Galaxy AI is built on our innovation heritage and deep understanding of how people use their phones. We’re excited to see how our users around the world empower their everyday lives with Galaxy AI to open up new possibilities.”

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