OpenAI CEO Sam Altman finally addressed rumors that he’s working with Apple’s former design guru, Jony Ive, on hardware that would essentially become the natural home of the ChatGPT AI. He did not deny the reports but said he’s not looking to compete against smartphones. Also, he’s not thinking of creating some sort of robot with AI brains.
While Altman did not share any details about this mysterious device, he seemed very interested in the idea of creating hardware for these new computing experiences. “I think there is something great to do but I don’t know what it is yet,” he said.
I’ll go a step further and say that ChatGPT desperately needs its own hardware, whether it looks like a smartphone, tablet, laptop, or something else entirely. That’s probably the only chance for OpenAI’s ChatGPT to survive in the coming years, considering all of the competition on the way from tech giants. We’re in the very early stages of personal AI, and ChatGPT can’t compete without having a natural home.
What is personal AI?
OpenAI stunned the world with its ChatGPT release about a year ago, sending Google into a frenzy. The Search giant reportedly panicked and changed its strategy for the year to focus even more on AI than it had already planned on doing. Microsoft, an early investor in ChatGPT, was already ahead of Google by simply incorporating OpenAI’s tech into Bing Search.
We’ve seen plenty of innovations in the space since then. ChatGPT, Google Bard, Bing Chat, Claude, and other generative AI products can offer even more sophisticated features.
But we’re still in the early days, where ChatGPT-like products have flaws. They hallucinate and give us fake information, and they can break copyright and privacy rules. Also, there’s plenty of talk about AI bringing us closer to a world-ending event.
At the same time, we’re starting to see the future of personal AI use. Humane, an interesting startup helmed by two former Apple execs, will release the Ai Pin in the coming weeks. That’s a wearable device that lacks a screen and puts a personal AI in your pocket.
Considering what I have seen so far, I’m cautiously optimistic about the idea. But Humane’s product is the best example of why ChatGPT needs its own hardware.
Personal AI is what I’m actually looking forward to. Artificial intelligence that I would willingly allow into my digital life to give me custom responses tailored to my needs.
This AI would preferably run on one or multiple devices I own. It would not share personal data with its creators or other third parties and would guard my data with strong encryption.
It might sound like something you’d see in a sci-fi movie, but we’re getting closer than ever to that sort of experience. Humane is only one of the companies working on personal AI. And ChatGPT, in its current form, can’t satisfy those needs.
Big tech companies are working on personal AI ecosystems
OpenAI might not manufacture a smartphone, but the ChatGPT product will have a tough time competing with handsets and laptops that will ship with personal AI features built-in. The same goes for Humane and similar startups. Because the big tech companies are working on creating their own personal AI experiences.
Microsoft made the first steps in that direction by unveiling the Copilot assistant for Windows 11 devices. The AI will do more than offer answers for most online queries on the spot. It’ll let you manage and control your computer.
Imagine working on something and telling Copilot to open certain apps in the background, change settings (like turning on dark mode), or take a screenshot. Maybe you want it to summarize an article you’ve opened in the browser but didn’t read.
With access to your Windows computer and personal data, Copilot will be able to do all that. In turn, you’ll improve your productivity and change how you multitask. The days when we tell the computer to do something for us like we see in sci-fi movies, are almost here.
Then there’s Google, who just showed us what personal AI can do. Google is in a much better place than OpenAI, even though Bard still seems to be trailing ChatGPT, at least when it comes to popularity. Google makes plenty of useful apps and recently announced Bard support for several of them.
The Google AI can now extract personal data from apps like Gmail, Maps, and YouTube to give you more personal answers that are based on what’s happening in your life. And it’ll start with the Assistant with Bard upgrade that Google announced during the Pixel 8 event.
It gets even better than that. Unlike Microsoft, Google has a massive smartphone operating system, and it makes its own Pixel phones and wearables. These are great homes for personal AI. Google demoed such features during the Pixel 8 event.
I said at the time I was envious of new health features packing generative AI support coming to Pixel devices, like asking the AI to explain your current form and compare it to the past. That’s not something I can currently do on the iPhone and other Apple devices.
On that note, I’m also jealous of Copilot, as I’m a longtime MacBook user. But Apple isn’t sitting idly by. The company is working on its own ChatGPT alternative. And while there’s no clear schedule for the arrival of an AppleGPT that could replace Siri, it can’t be too long.
I did say that the Vision Pro headset needs its own ChatGPT AI. The spatial computer might be the best place to showcase what personal AI can offer.
Like Google, Apple makes its mobile operating system and apps. On top of that, it sells a couple hundred million iPhones every year, something that Google can’t match. And Apple also has something else going for it.
The company has long made privacy a key feature of its devices. Any AppleGPT product would likely be developed with privacy in mind, especially any sort of personal AI product.
Then there’s Meta, another tech giant investing heavily in generative AI. WhatsApp, Instagram, and Facebook Messenger will feature some sort of generative AI features soon. Meta is determined to compete against Apple in the spatial computing field with its own Quest devices.
Unlike the other companies listed above, Meta isn’t known for its hardware. Nor does it have the best track record of protecting user privacy. But it has the resources to make that happen. And I bet that Meta would be very interested in offering customers personal AI experiences down the road.
ChatGPT can’t be the default AI on competing platforms
ChatGPT can run on all the devices that Microsoft, Google, Apple, and Meta sell. All you need is an internet browser to make it happen. But it’ll never be the default generative AI product. It’ll never be able to integrate with the operating system or the default apps the same way as first-party generative AI products will. And without hooking to those data streams, ChatGPT can’t become the personal AI that I want.
With all that in mind, there’s no question in my mind that OpenAI and Jony Ive are working on ChatGPT hardware. It’s not a matter of if it’ll happen. It’s how soon this AI-first device can arrive.