Snap expands AI chatbot with ability to create images

FILE PHOTO: Snapchat logo is seen in this illustration taken July 28, 2022. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration

(Reuters) -Snap Inc on Wednesday said its artificial intelligence chatbot will now be able to respond to users' messages with a fully AI-generated image, as the owner of photo messaging app Snapchat deepens its work in AI technology.

The announcement came at Snap's annual Partner Summit. The company aims to use the technology to speed up its development of augmented reality (AR) features, or computerized images overlayed on top of photos and videos of the real world.

Generative AI has captured the tech industry's focus in recent months and can generate original text or photos in response to prompts. Snap's chatbot, called My AI, which can help users with everything from writing poems to searching for information, was built using startup OpenAI's ChatGPT technology.

My AI is now available free to all Snapchat users and can be invoked to respond to questions in conversations between friends on Snapchat, Snap said on Wednesday. The chatbot was first rolled out to users who pay $3.99 a month for the company's premium subscription Snapchat+.

My AI could help users explore more parts of the Snapchat app by recommending lenses, which can add effects to photos and videos, or use the app's map feature to recommend real-world places to visit, said Evan Spiegel, chief executive of Snap, in an interview.

"This is the first time we're bringing AI into communication, which is the core of our service," he said. "People are really using My AI as a creative tool."

My AI's ability to respond to users with its own AI-generated images will be available first on Snapchat+, which has reached 3 million subscribers, Snap said.

As AI chatbots have grown, so have concerns about whether AI could plagiarize published works, provide inaccurate information or return harmful responses to queries.

Snap said it added new safety guard-rails to My AI, including temporarily restricting a user's access to the chatbot if they repeatedly ask it inappropriate or harmful questions.

Snap analyzes conversations with My AI and has found that 99.5% of the chatbot's responses adhere to Snapchat's community guidelines, Spiegel said.

He added that My AI will now also take a user's age into consideration "to make sure the conversation is age-appropriate." On Wednesday, the Santa Monica, California-based company also unveiled new AR mirrors which can be installed in stores to help customers virtually try on clothing items or see which accessories would match their outfit.

Retailers Nike and Men's Warehouse are using the mirrors in some stores, Snap said.

The mirrors are part of an enterprise division Snap launched last month to help other companies build AR experiences for their own apps and websites. The venture could also help Snap diversify beyond digital advertising, which currently makes up the majority of its revenue.

(Reporting by Sheila Dang in Santa Monica, California; Editing by Sonali Paul and Aurora Ellis)

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