Microsoft confirmed on Monday that it is making a “billion dollar” investment in OpenAI, the company behind the viral new AI chatbot tool called ChatGPT.
Microsoft, an early investor in OpenAI, said it plans to expand its existing partnership with the company as part of a larger effort to add more artificial intelligence to its product suite. In a separate blog post, OpenAI said the multi-year investment will be used to “develop AI that continues to become more secure, useful and powerful.”
“We have formed our partnership with OpenAI around a shared ambition to responsibly advance groundbreaking AI research and democratize AI as a new technology platform,” Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said in a statement.
The deepening collaboration between the two companies has the potential to boost OpenAI’s ambitious projects, including ChatGPT, which has caught the attention of — and at times raised concerns among — academics, business leaders, and tech enthusiasts with its ability to create lengthy and thorough answers to user prompts and questions.
The investment could also catapult Microsoft as an AI leader, ultimately paving the way for the company to include ChatGPT in some of its signature applications, such as Word, PowerPoint, and Outlook.
As a result of its existing exclusive deal with OpenAI, Microsoft recently said it would soon add ChatGPT features to its cloud computing service, Azure. If ChatGPT becomes available on that service, businesses will also be able to use the tools directly in its apps and services.
The investment comes days after Microsoft announced plans to lay off 10,000 employees as part of broader cost-cutting measures. At the time, Nadella said the company will continue to invest in “strategic areas for our future” and pointed to advances in AI as “the next big wave” of computing.
Since OpenAI opened access to ChatGPT in late November, it has been used to write articles (with more than a few factual inaccuracies) for at least one news publication; wrote lyrics in the style of several artists (one of whom later replied, “this song sucks”) and drafted research paper summaries that fooled some scientists.
Some CEOs have also used the platform to write emails or do accounting work.
OpenAI is also the company behind DALL-E, which generates a seemingly limitless array of images in response to user queries. Both DALL-E and ChatGPT are trained on massive amounts of data to generate content.
But there are some risks here for Microsoft and OpenAI.
While these products are popular with users, they have also raised concerns, including their potential to perpetuate prejudice and spread misinformation. At the same time, a growing number of schools and teachers are concerned about ChatGPT’s direct impact on students and their ability to cheat assignments.
That could potentially create “a lot of negative publicity” for the companies dealing with these tools, said David Lobina, an artificial intelligence analyst at ABI Research.
However, the opportunity is huge and could strengthen Microsoft’s position in the growing AI arms race, providing a useful boost to OpenAI in the process.
“OpenAI wants to monetize their systems given the huge computational cost of creating these models,” Lobina told CNN ahead of Monday’s announcement. “Their partnership with Microsoft could be an easy way to do this.”