The year 2023 will always be remembered as a “tipping point” when human civilisation changed forever as the world fully embraced artificial intelligence (AI) with both awe and excitement. At the pinnacle of the emergence of this new technological revolution was OpenAI, a U.S.-based research organisation founded in 2015, whose large AI-based language models -- DALL-E2, GPT-3 and now 4 -- triggered what's termed as the 'AI Spring' of 2023.

For the first time, OpenAI's chatbot ChatGPT, launched in November 2021, fully understood the language complexity with context and intent. ChatGPT blew away minds as the world had never encountered a tool, which could write poetry or hundreds of pages of thesis or film scripts, code, answer the most complex questions simply, and generate any picture you can imagine, all in just a few seconds.

The outburst in the popularity of ChatGPT was so intense that in the first month alone, it recorded a staggering 100 million monthly active users, giving the alphas of the tech world, including the likes of Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and Amazon, sleepless nights. Soon, a rat race started.

ChatGPT launch triggered what's termed as 'AI Spring' of 2023.
ChatGPT launch triggered what's termed as 'AI Spring' of 2023.
Image : Amit Sharma

Among the big tech giants, Microsoft was the early mover when it came to capturing the AI wave after the overnight popularity of ChatGPT. CEO Satya Nadella-led company had pumped in $1 billion in OpenAI way back in 2019. But as ChatGPT spread like wildfire, it infused $2 billion in early 2023, primarily in the form of Azure credits and cloud services for higher computing capabilities. Eying a higher stake in the CEO Sam Altman-led startup, Microsoft will pump in around $10 billion more in the coming years.

Quickly readjusting to the AI wave, the Washington-based company curated a bouquet of AI-powered products, including Copilot, GitHub Copilot, Azure AI, Dynamics 365 and broader Microsoft Cloud Services, to not leave its client base alienated. The gamble has paid off for Microsoft as its AI bet led to a revenue boost this year. Microsoft now aims to launch around 100 new AI-powered products and services in the coming years.

Following Microsoft in the AI race was Google, headed by Sundar Pichai, which came up with back-to-back launches. Google, which until OpenAI launched ChatGPT, was in the research phase of AI chatbot development. But it immediately announced the launch of its generative AI-based chatbot, called ‘Bard’ in March 2023, followed by Gemini, a suite of other AI products. Despite Google's tech dominance, Bard was not able to fully match up to the level of ChatGPT, though the company promised sophisticated upgrades soon. Bard has expanded considerably since its launch. It can now code, add visual capabilities and be connected to more Google apps and services.

In December 2023, Google announced that Bard will run on Gemini Pro, Google's most capable AI model yet, which, like ChatGPT, can generalise and understand, operate across and combine text, audio, video and code with utmost accuracy. From the usage of generative AI in search to immersive views for routes, Google successfully integrated AI into core products. Other AI offerings from Google include Duet AI for Google Workplace, new AI tools for YouTube, Google Labs for testing out products, advanced AI-powered features in Chrome, and new ways to track health in Google Pixel Watch.

Mark Zuckerberg-led Meta initially had come up with its AI-powered chatbot, Galactica. It backfired on account of accuracy, and Meta had to shut down the project. In 2022, Meta again came up with Llama, its version of ChatGPT and Bard. After the second iteration, it became quite a hit, especially among developers, as it's open source, and is accessible for tinkering and usage for research. This gave Meta an advantage over other "closed source" tools.

Not far behind in the race is e-comm major Amazon, which just last month launched Amazon Q, its competitor to commercial chatbots like ChatGPT Enterprise, Google Duet AI or Microsoft Copilot. The Amazon AI-powered chatbot claims to boost efficiency for companies using AI. For common users, too, Amazon has big plans. In September 2023, it invested around $4 billion in AI startup Anthropic, a company founded by former OpenAI members. Its AI model Claude has been considered a worthy rival to OpenAI's GPT-4.

How can one exclude Elon Musk from anything that's happening on the global scale? Although Tesla CEO and SpaceX founder played a prominent role in conceptualising the idea behind OpenAI in 2015, he parted ways in 2018. This year Musk launched his own AI Chatbot called ‘Grok’, which differentiates itself as having a "rebellious streak" and can answer questions with a "bit of wit". Musk also merged his AI entity xAI with his microblogging platform X (earlier Twitter), allowing Grok access to millions of user data on the X platform, and thus giving it an edge over others. Grok has also real-time knowledge of the world news and events like its rivals.

Where does India stand in AI race?

Catching up with the global AI wave, who's who of the technology space in India, including Tata Consultancy Services, Infosys, Wipro and HCLTech made big AI strides in 2023. In June, TCS announced heavy investments in building AI capabilities that include products and platforms. In November, TCS partnered with Amazon Web Services (AWS) to provide generative AI services to its clients to help them scale quickly.

Natarajan Chandrasekaran, chairman of Tata Sons
Natarajan Chandrasekaran, chairman of Tata Sons
Image : Narendra Bisht

In May, India's second biggest IT services company Infosys Ltd came up with the AI-first set of services, solutions and platforms using GenAI technologies. Infosys’ new AI platform Topaz converges the power of Infosys Cobalt cloud and data analytics to power businesses and deliver solutions.

Likewise, Wipro has set its intention clear when it comes to AI. In July, Wipro launched its own AI platform ai360, while announcing a $1 billion investment in AI in the next three years.

Wipro ai360 offers an end-to-end AI ecosystem, with responsible AI at the core. Wipro says it will also train all 2,50,000 employees on AI to make them future-ready.

Like its rival TCS, IT major HCLTech has also partnered with Amazon Web Services (AWS) to enhance its AI services suite. HCLTech will use Amazon CodeWhisperer to build and scale up AI-based applications. Other Amazon AI products, including Bedrock, Amazon Titan, AWs Trainium and AWS Interentia, are also a part of the tie-up.

Big players are moving fast, but it's smaller ones that are creating a solid playground for unleashing India’s AI capabilities. The whole AI ecosystem in India is thriving with companies garnering funding worth $3.24 billion in 2022, which is set to double in 2023. India will see a substantial increase in its GDP by around $1.2-1.5 trillion over the next seven years, thanks to the adoption of Gen AI technology, consultancy major EY India said in its December 2023 report. Considering the scale of AI adoption, India could contribute $359-438 billion in the fiscal year 2029-30 alone, a 5.9-7.2% increase over the baseline GDP.

What gives India a unique advantage is that it is the second largest generator of digital data – GenAI models need vast amounts of data to train – after China.

Resultantly, a new breed of AI startups is flourishing in the country. Around 60 startups are currently working on offering solutions and services using GenAI.

Prateek Garg, founder, AI-based IT solutions provider WorkElevate founder Prateek Garg says: "The past year has been a game-changer, laying the foundation for a future where AI-driven employee support will soar. Looking ahead, it's evident that AI is not just about answering simple textual queries; it's evolving into the driving force for swift troubleshooting, mirroring the proactive intelligence of an IT support person."

Amit Relan, co-founder and CEO, mFilterIt, believes the year 2024 is going to be a year of innovative technology led by AI and machine learning. "By embracing technological advancements and fostering a culture of innovation, India can harness the power of technology to address its challenges, achieve its aspirations, and emerge as a global leader in the digital age." mFilterIt offers an end-to-end an ad fraud detection & prevention tools.

As per the latest Nasscom report on the GenAI landscape in India, the number of Gen AI startups more than doubled between 2021 and the first half of 2023, with a majority of them using closed-source generative models.

Is GenAI a boon or bane?

Though GenAI fully captured people's imagination in 2023, it's still far away from what many describe as a technology that'll perfectly match descriptions of human-like machines in sci-fi movies. Many, however, fear that GenAI, providing it fully attains human-like intelligence and emotions, could threaten livelihoods across several industries, including the creative ones. There are several radical views attached to the misuse of GenAI.

Whether GenAI is a boon or a bane it’s still too early to answer, but, surely it is set to change humanity forever.
Whether GenAI is a boon or a bane it’s still too early to answer, but, surely it is set to change humanity forever.
Image : Getty Images

From AI-generated deepfakes to fears around the manipulation of people to achieve sinister goals or concerns around GenAI robots ruling over the human race one day -- experts have warned of the dangers this technology poses if not harnessed wisely. Elon Musk and several other top experts in April 2023 even called for at least a six-month pause on all research related to AI, asking governments to frame policies for framing responsible AI. "Powerful AI systems should be developed only once we are confident that their effects will be positive and their risks will be manageable," said the open letter signed by 33,709 people so far. Whether GenAI is a boon or a bane it’s still too early to answer, but, surely it is set to change humanity forever.

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