What is Generative AI? What is Generative AI? The term is thrown around loosely. Let's dig into it.

By Hammad Syed in Generative AI

April 6, 2024 9 min read
What is Generative AI?

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Generative AI has come a long way. From tech enthusiasts and professionals to almost a household phrase. So what is Generative AI anyway?

Generative AI is one of today’s breakthroughs, even influencing how we interact with digital content and automate complex tasks. Fuelled by insane advances in machine learning, especially deep learning, and large language models (LLMs), it has the potential to mimic human intelligence in generating new content that feels authentic and engaging.

There are various generative AI models. As companies keep iterating, they build new versions or iterate over foundation models. These models keep getting better, and faster as engineers keep on fine tuning and improving natural language processing.

Let’s look at what it is, what’s its impact, and also list a bunch of generative AI tools by category.

So what is generative AI?

At its core, generative artificial intelligence refers to AI systems—such as neural networks and algorithms—capable of creating new data that resemble authentic, human-generated data. These systems leverage large datasets and training data to learn from existing examples and produce novel outputs, from text and images to music and code.

The cool kids refer to generative AI as gen AI. They are one and the same.

Main features of gen AI

  1. Large Language Models (LLMs) and Transformers: Technologies like OpenAI’s GPT-3 and GPT-4 are prime examples of generative pre-trained transformers (GPTs). These models use vast amounts of data to learn language patterns, enabling them to generate coherent and contextually relevant text. Chatbots, like ChatGPT, and other AI chat solutions employ these models to deliver human-like conversational experiences.
  2. Generative Adversarial Networks (GANs): This class of AI algorithms involves two models—the generator and the discriminator—working against each other to produce highly realistic outputs. From creating new artwork to generating synthetic data for training other machine learning models, GANs have wide applications, including in healthcare for generating medical images.
  3. Diffusion Models: Recently popularized by technologies like Stable Diffusion, these models start with a pattern of random noise and gradually shape it into a coherent image through a process guided by learned data.
  4. Variational Autoencoders (VAEs): VAEs are used for generating new data points with the same statistical properties as the training set. They are particularly useful in fields like drug discovery where generating new molecular structures can be invaluable.

Generative AI categories, AI applications, and use cases

Gen AI for text generation

  1. GPT-3/GPT-4 (OpenAI): These models are used in chatbots, virtual assistants, content creation, and customer service automation. They excel at writing articles, generating creative writing, coding through platforms like GitHub Copilot, and more.
  2. Bard (Google): Leveraging Google’s language understanding, Bard is used to generate informative content, assist in educational contexts, and provide explanations in natural language.

Gen AI for image generation

  1. DALL-E (OpenAI): Generates novel images from textual descriptions. Useful in art creation, advertising, and virtual design.
  2. Stable Diffusion: Open-source tool for creating high-quality images based on user prompts. Employed in digital art, game asset creation, and media production.
  3. MidJourney: An independent AI tool focused on creating highly artistic and conceptual visuals suitable for graphic design and exploratory art projects.

This image, for example, was created in DALL-E. All it took was a prompt such as:

Create a realistic, stunning image of a beautiful sunset over a deserted island.
DALL-E Gen AI image example

And the image below is from MidJourney, which is arguably one of the best out there. MidJourney generally gives you four options.

MidJourney Gen AI image example

Gen AI for text to speech

  1. Play.ht: Play.ht offers ai voice generation from text. You type in text and AI transforms this text into spoken word. You can also choose various voices, accents, and languages.

Gen AI for AI agents

  1. Play.ai: Play.ai is one of the newest players in this very new space of AI voice agents. While chatbots can respond to text based on very simple if/else statements, AI voice agents can actually understand and learn as the go along. People can call an AI agent on the phone and have a real conversation.

Gen AI for AI chatbots

  1. ChatGPT: ChatGPT leverages the power of OpenAI’s GPT-3 and GPT-4 models, making it highly effective at understanding and generating human-like text. Great for customer service to provide support and answer inquiries, in educational tools to aid learning, in content creation to generate written material, and for personal entertainment as a conversational partner.
  2. Replika: Replika is designed to create more personalized and emotionally intelligent conversations. Replika serves primarily as a companion chatbot, helping users explore their thoughts and feelings. It is also used for mental wellness, offering a conversational space for users to articulate emotions and experiences in a supportive environment.

Gen AI music and audio synthesis

  1. OpenAI Jukebox: Generates music, including singing, in various styles from scratch or based on input themes. It’s used in music composition, sound design, and entertainment.
  2. Google Magenta: Provides tools and models to create new music and sounds, aiding musicians, sound designers, and artists in exploring new sonic possibilities.

Gen AI for code generation

  1. GitHub Copilot (powered by OpenAI’s Codex): Assists developers by suggesting code snippets and entire functions based on natural language prompts. Used in software development to improve coding efficiency and reduce repetitive tasks.

Gen AI for data generation

  1. Synthetic Data Generation Tools (YData, Mostly AI): These tools generate synthetic datasets that mimic the statistical properties of real-world data. Useful in situations where data privacy is crucial, such as in healthcare and finance, for training other AI models without exposing sensitive information.

Gen AI for drug discovery and molecular design

  1. DeepChem: Uses machine learning for drug discovery, chemical informatics, and materials science, helping researchers identify new drug candidates more efficiently.
  2. VAEs (Variational Autoencoders) and GANs (Generative Adversarial Networks): Employed in generating new molecular structures, these tools are crucial in accelerating experimental drug testing and development.

Gen AI for video generation

  1. Open AI: Open AI recently launched Sora which generates videos from prompts. It’s probably one of the best text to video tools out there at the moment.
  2. Deepfake Technology: Used to create and modify videos to change the appearance of a person in existing videos. Used in film production, advertising, and also poses ethical questions in content authenticity.
  3. First Order Motion Model: Allows for the animation of still images to produce video content. Useful in digital marketing and entertainment to bring static images to life.

Gen AI for predictive text and email responses

  1. Smart Compose in Gmail: Utilizes machine learning to predict text responses during email composition. Improves user efficiency by reducing typing time and enhancing communication fluidity.

Generative AI for enterprises

Generative AI is more than just pretty images. Large enterprises, like The Coca Cola Company recently invested $1.5 billion dollars for its generative AI partnership with Microsoft. As to the details of the deal, it isn’t quite clear yet. But this is just the beginning.

Each of these tools and their use cases shows how generative AI can be specialized to fulfill specific needs in various domains, revolutionizing how tasks are performed and services are delivered across industries.

Applications Across Industries

Generative AI’s versatility makes it applicable across a broad spectrum. In content creation, tools like DALL-E and MidJourney automate the generation of high-quality images and artworks, streamlining creative workflows. In software development, platforms like GitHub Copilot, powered by OpenAI’s technology, assist coders by suggesting new code blocks and entire functions, enhancing developer productivity.

Beyond creative and technical fields, generative AI impacts sectors like social media, where it can automate content creation, and healthcare, where it aids in forecasting disease outbreaks and personalizing treatment plans. Its role in drug discovery through synthetic data generation and predictive modeling showcases its potential to accelerate research and development significantly.

Challenges and Considerations

While generative AI can automate and optimize decision-making processes, it comes with its own set of challenges. Biases in training data can lead to AI outputs that perpetuate these biases, making fairness and attribution key concerns. Additionally, the creation of deepfakes—highly realistic and potentially misleading content—poses ethical and legal challenges.

The Future of Generative AI

As we continue to harness these advanced technologies, the integration of AI in human workflows will likely become more seamless and intuitive. Companies like Microsoft, leveraging partnerships with OpenAI, are pushing the boundaries of what AI can achieve in real-time applications and beyond.

In essence, generative AI represents not just a suite of advanced technologies but a fundamental shift in how we envision the role of machines in creative and analytical processes. It promises to augment human capabilities, enhance efficiency, and open up new avenues for innovation and growth. Whether in developing next-gen apps, optimizing robotics, or pioneering new startup ventures, generative AI is at the forefront of technological advancement and human progress.

What is generative AI in simple terms?

Generative AI refers to artificial intelligence systems, like neural networks and machine learning models, that can create new, unique content—from text to images—by learning from vast datasets.

What is the difference between generative AI and AI?

While traditional AI focuses on interpreting and acting on data through algorithms (like decision-making or optimization), generative AI specifically creates new content by learning from existing data, using techniques such as GANs (Generative Adversarial Networks) and LLMs (Large Language Models).

Is GPT a generative AI?

Yes, GPT (Generative Pre-trained Transformer) is a type of generative AI developed by OpenAI. It is designed to generate text by predicting successive words in sentences, making it ideal for applications like chatbots and AI-generated content creation.

What is the difference between generative AI and assistive AI?

Generative AI autonomously creates new data and content, such as synthetic images or text, based on learned patterns in training data. Assistive AI, on the other hand, supports and enhances human tasks without independently creating new content, such as in applications like healthcare forecasting or robotics interfaces.

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Hammad Syed

Hammad Syed

Hammad Syed holds a Bachelor of Engineering - BE, Electrical, Electronics and Communications and is one of the leading voices in the AI voice revolution. He is the co-founder and CEO of PlayHT, now known as PlayAI.

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