Microsoft has loosened access to its Azure OpenAI service, allowing more developers to leverage the AI service’s powerful model for natural language processing in the cloud.
At its Build developer conference this week, Microsoft invited companies to apply for the limited-access preview of its OpenAI service. Until now, the service was by invitation only.
Microsoft based the Azure service on the Generative Pre-trained Transformer (GPT-3) deep learning neural network. The OpenAI company, founded in 2015 by a group of investors including Elon Musk, developed the GPT-3 machine learning model which has more than 175 billion parameters. Musk, CEO of electric car maker Tesla, left the company in 2019.
That year, Microsoft invested $1 billion in OpenAI to commercialize GPT-3 and conduct further AI research. The OpenAI model is powerful enough to generate large amounts of relevant machine-generated text from a small amount of input text. The writing that OpenAI produces reads as if a human had written it.
Researchers and academics have been using OpenAI through its original company for years. Still, Microsoft’s announcement is significant, said Andrew Lohn, senior fellow at Georgetown University’s Center for Security and Emerging Technology.
“This seems to me like an important moment to illustrate the union between Microsoft and OpenAI,” Lohn said. “It shows that OpenAI is affiliated with Microsoft in the sense of product development.”
GPT-3 had no match as a trained language model until Meta, Facebook’s parent company, released Open Pretrained Transformer (OPT-175B) earlier this month. Both models are similar in size but differ in how developers, researchers, and academics can access them. Meta allows users to run the model and its codebase on an on-premises server. OpenAI provides access only through the cloud.
Microsoft’s GPT-3 offering is also cloud-only, and the company screens applicants before providing access. The preview launched during Build includes GPT-3, Codex, and integration templates.
Codex translates plain language into code that the underlying computers can run. The integrations simplify the deployment of semantic search, a data search technique that delivers results based on what AI technology determines to be the intent and contextual meaning of a query.
Developers use the OpenAI service to provide authoring assistance, translate natural language into code, and extract insights from massive amounts of data.
National used-car dealership CarMax, which made nearly $19 billion in revenue last year, uses the OpenAI service to provide 5,000 summaries of 100,000 customer reviews for every make, model and year of vehicles sold by the company, according to Microsoft.
Other customers include Farmlands, a New Zealand-based agricultural supplier. The cooperative uses OpenAI Service to provide call center agents with summaries of previous customer interactions.
Preventing Potential GPT-3 Abuse
Microsoft has safeguards in place to prevent misuse of the OpenAI service. The company will require applicants to specify use cases and follow Microsoft’s principles for using AI. Organizations using the service must hire people to ensure the accuracy of the output before publication.
In addition, Microsoft has integrated filters into the service capable of removing sexual, violent and hateful content. During the preview period, Microsoft plans to add filters and improve the service’s anti-abuse capabilities in collaboration with customers.
However, Microsoft wants to avoid becoming the sole guardian of content, said Sarah Bird, Microsoft’s head of AI for Azure.