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iPhone VS ChatGPT...Is ChatGPT having an 'iPhone Moment'?

Written by Alan Coyne, lecturer at UCD Professional Academy

Is Chat GPT really having an ‘iPhone moment’ or is it just all part of the hype? 

If you haven’t heard something about ChatGPT or GoogleBard or one of the countless Artificial Intelligence tools that seemed to have appeared seemingly out of nowhere in the last few months then you must have been living under a rock! And I think I might be jealous! 

What is ChatGPT?

I was thinking about how to explain exactly what ChatGPT or any engaging chatbot is and I decided I would ask it! 

I logged in and typed: ‘Can you explain what chat gpt is in the simplest of terms?’ And it replied: 

Certainly! ChatGPT is a computer program or software that is designed to have conversations with people. It uses advanced technology called artificial intelligence to understand and respond to what people say or type. It can answer questions, provide information, and engage in discussions on various topics. ChatGPT uses a large amount of data and complex algorithms to understand and generate human-like responses. It's like having a chat with a smart computer that can understand and talk back to you.‘ 

Sounds like a totally brand-new innovative accomplishment. This new revolutionary chatbot is going to come looking for John and Sarah Connor surely!

So it's not new and innovative at all?

Well, that’s not exactly true either.

A lot of technology has great use cases and even a great product, but user adoption can be challenging. Here are some examples of companies that tried and failed to launch interactive chatbots in the last few years: 

Microsoft's Tay (2016): Microsoft's Tay was an AI chatbot designed to engage with users on social media platforms. However, within hours of its launch, Tay started exhibiting inappropriate and offensive behaviour. Users exploited vulnerabilities in its learning algorithm, leading to Tay making offensive statements. As a result, Microsoft had to shut down the chatbot, illustrating the risks and challenges of managing AI-powered systems in uncontrolled environments. 

Facebook's M (2018): Facebook's chatbot initiative called M aimed to provide a personal assistant-like experience within the Facebook Messenger platform. However, after two years of testing, Facebook announced the discontinuation of M in early 2018. The chatbot faced challenges in scaling up and meeting user expectations. It proved difficult to automate complex tasks and achieve a high level of reliability, leading to the decision to phase out the project. 

IBM's Watson-based chatbots (Various attempts): IBM's Watson AI platform has been applied to develop chatbots for different industries, such as healthcare, customer service, and finance. However, some of these chatbot initiatives faced difficulties and failed to meet expectations. In certain instances, the chatbots struggled to comprehend user queries accurately or provide satisfactory responses. Challenges in natural language understanding, context awareness, and maintaining robust conversational capabilities played a role in their limitations and eventual discontinuation.

What has this got to do with the iPhone launch in 2007?

Similarly, in 2007 and the subsequent years when Steve Jobs famously launched the iPhone, the sentiment at the time seemed to indicate that Apple had done something truly innovative by combining calls, messaging, internet access and music all in one device. 

But people tend to forget this was not the first ‘smartphone’ as we consider it today. 

Here are just some of the smartphones that were released and ultimately never solidified themselves in the marketplace pre-2007. 

Microsoft's Windows Mobile (2000s): Microsoft's Windows Mobile platform aimed to offer a full-featured smartphone experience with a familiar Windows interface. While it gained some market share, Windows Mobile faced challenges due to its complex and less intuitive user interface compared to competitors. It struggled to provide a seamless and user-friendly experience, limiting its mass appeal. 

Motorola ROKR E1 (2005): The Motorola ROKR E1 was a collaboration between Motorola and Apple that aimed to combine a mobile phone with Apple's iTunes music software. However, the device's limitations, such as a low song capacity and sluggish performance, along with Apple's decision to restrict certain features, resulted in a lacklustre user experience. The ROKR E1 failed to gain significant popularity and was quickly overshadowed by the introduction of the iPod and iPhone. 

Nokia N-Gage (2003): The Nokia N-Gage was a gaming-focused smartphone that aimed to combine mobile gaming with phone functionality. However, the device faced numerous challenges, including its unconventional design, uncomfortable controls, and limitations in game availability. These factors hindered its adoption and led to poor sales. Nokia later discontinued the N-Gage series and shifted its focus to other smartphone endeavours.

Sony Ericsson P800 (2002): The Sony Ericsson P800 was an early smartphone that offered advanced features such as a touchscreen and multimedia capabilities. However, the device faced challenges due to its bulky design, limited software support, and a high price point. It struggled to compete with more refined and user-friendly offerings from other manufacturers. 

Although the iPhone's significance can’t be understated and the impact it has had on the smartphone market has been transformative.

However, it was not the first smartphone, and the technology was not new or strikingly innovative at the time.

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So why all the fuss about ChatGPT?

ChatGPT has achieved remarkable success compared to other language model (LLM) chatbots. 

OpenAI, the company behind ChatGPT claims that its success comes from its advanced technology, the massive scale of the data it uses and its attention to user feedback but in my view, it boils down to three aspects: 

One potential reason could be ‘controlled generation’. OpenAI introduced methods to allow users to have more control over the output of ChatGPT. 

Chat GPT allows you to continue conversing with it. You can question its responses or add follow-up questions with minimal effort while still retaining context. This makes it possible for the user to refine the answers they receive and lead to better outcomes. 

The design aspects of the user interface and experience are also significantly important. 

This is comparable to Apple's approach to the iPhone, with a focus on seamless design throughout. 

Humans tend to feel uncomfortable having a direct conversation with an Alexa, or interacting with fake human chatbots on customer service websites. Perhaps they feel they are in an artificial situation of some kind. ChatGPT, never names itself or includes a human-like photo. We are all very clear that this is an AI and not a piece of personified software. This perhaps allows for a more transparent experience.

Timing: A Crucial Element: 

The timing of product launches played a crucial role in the success of both the iPhone and ChatGPT. The iPhone arrived at a juncture when various technological advancements harmoniously converged. Miniaturization of components, the maturation of mobile internet infrastructure, and the availability of touchscreen technology created a favourable environment for Apple's introduction. By skilfully harnessing these advancements, Apple developed a product that truly resonated with the zeitgeist. 

Similarly, ChatGPT emerged at a time when significant strides had been made in natural language processing and machine learning. 

The availability of vast amounts of training data, breakthroughs in deep learning techniques, and enhanced computational power contributed to the feasibility of creating a highly powerful language model. OpenAI capitalized on these advancements by launching ChatGPT, effectively leveraging the current technological landscape. 

Lack of Novelty, but Pioneering Impact: 

While neither the iPhone nor ChatGPT can be considered entirely novel or innovative technologies, their significance lies in the pioneering impact they had on their respective industries. 

Smartphones existed before the iPhone; however, Apple refined the concept and introduced a device that revolutionized the industry. With its intuitive user interface, the iPhone laid the foundation for the modern smartphone era, setting new standards for design, functionality, and user experience. 

Similarly, language models and chatbots were not unheard of before ChatGPT. However, OpenAI refined the technology, pushing the boundaries of what was previously possible. ChatGPT exhibited improved contextual understanding, allowing for more natural and engaging conversations. It raised the bar for conversational AI, setting new expectations for chatbot capabilities.

To Sum Up

The launches of the iPhone and ChatGPT marked transformative moments in the realms of mobile technology and chatbots, respectively. Despite the differences in their domains, both products experienced the ebb and flow of the Gartner Hype Cycle, faced challenges from competitors, and launched at opportune times. 

The iPhone and ChatGPT launches and adoption demonstrated the power of execution, the importance of understanding user needs, and the ability to refine existing technologies. Their impact reshaped industries and provided valuable lessons for future innovations. 

As technology continues to evolve, we can draw inspiration from these examples, emphasizing the significance of timing, learning from failures, and refining existing concepts to create groundbreaking experiences. 

We are a long way out before we can really gauge the impact of this new mass adoption of Artificial Intelligence in our daily lives but we sure do have exciting times ahead!