Meta to release a commercial AI model in a bid to catch rivals

Meta is set to release a commercial version of its AI model, enabling startups and companies to build custom software based on the technology.

The move will allow Meta to compete with Microsoft-backed OpenAI and Google, who are advancing in the race to develop generative AI. The software, which can create text, images and code, is powered by large language models (LLMs) that are trained on huge amounts of data and require a lot of computing power.

Meta released its own language model, known as LLaMA, to researchers and academics earlier this year, but the new version will be more widely available and customizable by companies, said three people familiar with the plans. The release is expected soon, one of the people said.

Meta says its LLMs are open source, meaning details of the new model will be released publicly. This contrasts with the approach of competitors such as OpenAI, whose latest GPT-4 model is a so-called black box where the data and code used to build the model are not available to third parties.

The competitive landscape of AI will change completely in the next few months, perhaps in the next few weeks, as there will be open source platforms that are actually as good as those that aren’t, Meta’s vice president and chief AI scientist, Yann LeCun, said in a conference in Aix-en-Provence last Saturday.

The impending release of Metas comes as a race among Silicon Valley tech groups to establish themselves as dominant AI participants is heating up.

Writing in the Financial Times this week, Metas global affairs chief Nick Clegg extolled the virtues of an open source approach, saying that openness is the best antidote to the fears surrounding AI. But the move also helps Meta in its attempts to catch up with rivals, as an open model would allow companies of all sizes to improve the technology and build applications on top of it.

Meta has been working on AI research and development for more than a decade, but appears to be in trouble after OpenAIs ChatGPT, a conversational chatbot, was released in November, spurring other Big Tech groups to launch similar products.

The goal is to decrease OpenAI’s current dominance, said a person with knowledge of high-level strategy at Meta.

Meta declined to comment.

While the Metas technology is open source and currently free, two people familiar with the matter said the company has been exploring the possibility of charging enterprise customers to fine-tune the model to suit their needs using their own data. owners. One person said that there are currently no billing plans and Meta won’t do it in the next release.

Joelle Pineau, vice president of AI research at Metas, declined to comment on the development of a new AI model and how it could be monetized, but said: At the end of the day, why release something [open source]you do not completely give up the intellectual property of that work.

We haven’t been shy about wanting to use these templates [in our] products, he added.

In 2021, CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced a pivot to build an avatar-filled digital world known as the metaverse and has been spending more than $10 billion annually on the project. That expensive ambition has proven unpopular with investors, and Meta recently raced to ramp up its investment in artificial intelligence.

Earlier this year, the social networking giant established a generative AI unit led by chief product officer Chris Cox. Pineau said Cox’s team was involved in the research side of AI but also in product development, as he was creating entirely new businesses.

Zuckerberg and other executives have hinted at a push towards building more AI chatbots for individuals, advertisers and businesses on Meta platforms Instagram, WhatsApp and Facebook, fueled by his LLMs.

The benefit of open source models includes higher adoption by users who then enter more data for AI to process. The more data an LLM has, the more powerful its capabilities can become.

Additionally, open source models allow researchers and developers to find and fix bugs, improving technology and security simultaneously at a time when tech companies like Meta have faced years of scrutiny over various privacy scandals and misinformation.

While providing software for free may seem antithetical to making money, experts believe companies can also use this strategy to conquer new markets.

Meta has realized that they are behind in the current AI hype cycle, and this gives them a way to open up the ecosystem and they appear to be doing the right thing, being charitable and giving back to the community, one person said who is familiar with the company’s thinking. .

However, there are clear risks with open source AI, which can be shaped and abused by bad actors. For example, child safety groups are reporting an increase in AI-generated child sexual abuse images online.

The researchers also found that an earlier Meta AI model, BlenderBot 2, released in 2021, was spreading misinformation. Meta claimed to have made the BlenderBot 3 more resistant to this content, although users still found it generated false information.

There are also regulatory and legal risks regarding intellectual property and copyright. On Monday, comedian and actress Sarah Silverman filed a lawsuit against Meta and OpenAI for alleging that her work was used to train models without her consent.

Meta released its open source LLaMA model to researchers in February. A month later, it leaked more widely via the 4chan online forum, prompting developers to build on it in violation of Metas licensing rules, which specify it shouldn’t be used in commercial products.

This model is out there in ways we wish it weren’t, Pineau said.

Other AI companies, such as French start-up Mistral, are also looking into the potential of releasing open source versions of their technology. OpenAI, which has previously released open-source AI models for speech and image recognition, said its team was looking to develop an open-source LLM, provided they could reduce the risks of misuse below of a minimum threshold.

We have a choice between deciding that AI is too dangerous a technology to stay open and putting it under lock and key and in the hands of a small number of companies that will control it, said LeCun, head of Metas AI. Or, conversely, open source platforms that require contributions… from all over the world.

Additional reporting by Tim Bradshaw

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