As OpenAI blazed the trail for AI tools based on large language models (LLMs), it sparked a swift response from tech giants and notable AI firms, launching their own competitive offerings.
The resulting influx of AI tools presents a captivating spectacle, albeit a mixed bag. Some of these tools are built upon open-source projects, while others may simply mask pre-trained transformer (GPT) application programming interfaces (APIs).
Certain tools launched by well-known tech giants boast impressive features and capabilities. However, not all of them are readily accessible or designed for the average user, with some catering specifically to business clients. Moreover, there are tools that may not be applicable in all contexts.
In this article, we will explore and compare the leading LLM platforms that prioritize user-friendliness and widespread accessibility. Here are my thoughts on these platforms in the context of productivity and everyday use.
At the forefront of the conversational AI landscape stands ChatGPT, a widely acclaimed and globally recognised AI tool. To clarify, while GPT 3.5 and the latest 4.0 are models, ChatGPT represents a comprehensive service or platform built upon these cutting-edge models.
Arguably, ChatGPT outperforms its competitors. For users of GPT 3.5, the service is provided free of charge across all platforms. Alternatively, the ChatGPT Plus service, priced at $20 per month, offers more enhanced features like GPT 4.0 along with additional benefits such as plugins and limited web browsing capabilities.
The tool offers excellent comprehension in both Chinese and English across a wide range of contexts, although English generation speed surpasses that of Chinese. While it occasionally requires additional instructions for optimal results, ChatGPT demonstrates a willingness to acknowledge and rectify any errors it may make.
ChatGPT also supports chat history, allowing users to revise and revisit previous conversations at any time.
However, it is important to mention that the tool’s web design may not be visually appealing, and occasional bugs and instability may be encountered, particularly for free users during peak server usage (and occasionally for paid users as well).
Furthermore, there is a valid concern regarding the potential use of user data by the company for training or research purposes, which could potentially compromise user privacy.
It is worth noting that ChatGPT has recently launched its iOS app, offering its core basic features without the support of plugins.
Microsoft's search engine, Bing, has integrated the powerful GPT 4 into its service, elevating its capabilities and offering a free and enhanced experience with web search functionality. Users now have access to three search options – creative, balanced, and precise – enabling greater control over the results they obtain.
Nevertheless, Bing Chat imposes limitations on conversation and session lengths. Despite Microsoft's efforts to increase capacity, it remains finite. The tool may also selectively avoid or decline certain topics without providing any explanation, abruptly concluding conversations and prompting a fresh start.
The tool is also exclusively accessible through the Edge browser or Bing App.
The new Bing prioritizes the aggregation and summarization of internet information, offering clickable citations with reliable sources. While its language comprehension abilities in both English and Chinese are on par with other GPT-based products, the performance of Bing Chat in Chinese is somewhat compromised due to the lower quality of Chinese sources available on the internet.
Notably, while new Bing is adept at generating nonfiction content, its ability to craft creative stories is somewhat limited. This marks a major departure from earlier versions that were known for generating engaging fan fiction and original narratives.
Google's Bard arrived slightly later than its competitors. Although Bard is free and demonstrates competence in handling simple questions, it tends to evade answering specific queries, even ones as straightforward as "What is Baidu?" or "Tell me about Microsoft?"
Bard presents all generated content at once with rapid speed. However, it doesn't support Chinese, and its ability to generate simple stories based on given contexts is underwhelming.
In one of its stories featuring Master Chief and Cortana from Halo, the resulting narrative was unremarkable, ending abruptly with a lackluster embrace and kiss between the characters.
Despite this limitation, Bard shines in its impressive editing abilities. It swiftly and proficiently revises articles, clearly indicating the changes made and providing explanations for them. As a result, Bard proves to be a valuable companion and instructor for writing endeavours.
Baidu ERNIE (enhanced representation through knowledge integration) stands out as the only major local competitor that is accessible to a large batch of testers in China. Although it is free, it is less practical and capable compared to its rivals.
In certain contexts, Baidu ERNIE outperforms GPT-based tools in terms of Chinese language generation speed and comprehension. However, it does have its moments of absurdity and inconsistency.
Baidu has developed an app that offers "pre-prompted" conversations catering to practical applications such as scriptwriting, daily report generation, and virtual interviews. Additionally, It provides a robust feature for generating images based on text, showcasing notable performance with Chinese artwork.
Another notable Chinese AI firm, iFlytek, has also introduced its LLM chat platform, Spark. The firm is known for its high performance in NLP technology, which delivers high-quality speech-to-text and translation services.
While Spark is currently only recommended for internal testing purposes, it is a free alternative to Baidu ERNIE in China. The application can be swiftly approved, providing users with a viable option.
Spark has the capability to compose simple fictional stories, although their plots tend to be concise and straightforward. Regarding comprehension, Spark performs better in English than in Chinese but boasts fast generation speeds in both languages.
For an improved user experience, Spark includes preset conversations in various categories to start with.
Google Search Lab
Google Search Lab is an experimental addition to Google Search, akin to Microsoft's new Bing. It focuses on organizing online information and offering ideas, such as travel planning.
It is a free feature that requires applying for access and is only available on Chrome or the Google App, which typically takes a few weeks based on my experience. However, it currently does not support Chinese language.
Although powerful at indexing information and dominating the market, Google Search Lab struggles with more complex tasks such as summarizing results and creating tables. Despite user corrections, it still falls short compared to GPT-based tools in executing certain tasks.
One notable aspect of Google Search Lab is its well-designed interface. The feature seamlessly integrates between the search bar and results, following Google's Material Design to align with Chrome's theme. The search results are carefully presented with proper contrast, highlighting essential information.
Notion AI is an enhancement for the popular notebook platform, offering an improved writing experience. The feature allows users to try it for free, with a subsequent monthly charge of $10.
It feels like a version of ChatGPT in a text editor, enabling AI-generate content based on selected document instructions.
What distinguishes it is the ability to generate content specifically tailored to a document selection, providing an alternative way to engage with AI beyond traditional chatting. It offers a host of preset instructions for tasks like enhancing writing, extending content, summarizing, and explaining. Its generation speed is swift, and the English results are creative and promising.
An interesting feature is the ability to input a list of terms and prompt Notion AI to provide explanations, which can be neatly organized into a table. This process is seamless and effective, offering a departure from formulaic interactions found in other conversational tools.
Best Alternative: OpenCat + GPT 3 API
With OpenAI granting access to GPT via API, various apps directly powered by the GPT API have emerged. A standout among these is OpenCat, a top-charting app from notable indie developer Zou Zhenlu from China.
OpenCat's core feature closely resembles the free version of ChatGPT (GPT 3.5), offering chat history functionality. The API pricing is based on token usage, taking into account word count and context amount.
OpenCat also offers a unique feature, the GPT keyboard, which enables for generating chat replies or other content within any app. This offers a level of versatility and convenience that is a significant advantage over competitors.
A key additional feature is the ability to set prompts for each conversation, enabling different scenes such as email replying, article editing, and even Tarot card reading. The prompt community also offers a wealth of creative conversation presets.
Users can also customize context dialogue amounts to manage costs effectively. Speaking of pricing, the GPT 3.5 API is surprisingly affordable, designed for large-scale usage. 200 words only cost $0.001 when the context dialogue amount is set to 1. Personally, I have been using the API on a daily basis for over two months, and have spent only $2.74 thus far.
However, the app is currently exclusively available for Apple users, but an Android version is expected to be released soon.
As LLMs continue to gain popularity among tech giants and AI firms, there are several user-friendly and accessible platforms that stand out. ChatGPT is currently leading the pack, followed closely by Microsoft's Bing and Notion AI.
Although Google’s Bard is still facing challenges, its upcoming features for the search engine and work suite show promise in presenting information in an engaging manner. I would look forward to seeing its progress and improvement in the future.
OpenAI has also developed noteworthy apps powered by GPT, such as OpenCat, which offers a high level of versatility and convenience.
Many of the platforms mentioned in the article are available for free, while some come at a minimal cost. If you’ve been contemplating integrating AI tools into your workflow, now is the opportune time to explore and try out these tools.
Just go apply and try out these tools before they grow really strong to potentially replace your position, but go the smarter way to be the pilot of these advancements to maximize their potential in your work and productivity.
Photo by Google DeepMind on Unsplash