July 16, 2024

Since ChatGPT debuted in November, hundreds of millions of people have tried out the online chatbot, which can answer questions, write poems, draft emails and improvise on virtually any topic in a web browser.

On Thursday, OpenAI, the San Francisco artificial intelligence lab behind ChatGPT, launched a new version of its chatbot for the iPhone, hoping to build on its popularity.

Unlike the browser-based version of ChatGPT, the smartphone app responds to voice commands, operating a bit like Apple’s Siri digital assistant or Amazon’s Alexa. The app will not answer with voice, but will generate a text reply.

in a blog postOpenAI said the app is part of its efforts to turn AI research into “useful tools that empower people, while continually making them more accessible.” It declined to comment further.

By making its flagship technology available to billions of iPhone users, OpenAI is cementing its place among the tech industry giants. ChatGPT is the most prominent example of so-called generative AI, which can generate text, images and other media based on short prompts. Google, Microsoft and various start-ups have released similar bots and are beginning to apply such technology to a wide range of online services.

The result of more than a decade of research by companies like Google and OpenAI, these chatbots are poised to reinvent everything from internet search engines like Google Search and Bing to email programs like Gmail and Outlook.

They can generate digital text that can be used in almost any setting, from students writing term papers to business people creating e-mail messages and other marketing materials.

The technology isn’t perfect. Because these chatbots learn by analyzing reams of digital text culled from the internet, they cannot distinguish fact from fiction. The computer code they generate is often flawed.

Today, the technology tends to complement human workers rather than completely replace their skills.

OpenAI isn’t the first to roll out technology that lets people use ChatGPT by voice; a few smaller companies and independent developers have already done so. Microsoft also offers a version of the Bing chatbot that responds to voice commands.

The new iPhone app is free. Subscribers to ChatGPT Plus — $20 per month — get access to a more powerful version of the chatbot based on GPT-4 technology.

OpenAI began rolling out the app in the United States on Thursday and will expand to other countries in the coming weeks. A version of the app for Android phones is also in development.

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