Instacart Joins ChatGPT Frenzy and Adds Chatbot to Shopping App

Instacart Joins ChatGPT Frenzy and Adds Chatbot to Shopping App

Instacart Inc. is adding OpenAI’s ChatGPT chatbot technology to its grocery delivery app, joining a growing list of companies turning to the human-like artificial intelligence language tool to boost customer service, marketing and other automated tasks.

Instacart will use the chatbot to power a new search engine that answers users’ questions about food, such as recipe ideas and ingredients or healthy eating options, the San Francisco startup said Wednesday. By tapping into ChatGPT’s language software, the search engine’s answers appear as a dialogue rather than a list of search engine results, Instacart said. According to the company, the introduction of the new feature called “Ask Instacart” is expected later this year.

“When you think about grocery shopping, it takes a lot of thought and planning,” said JJ Zhuang, Instacart’s chief architect, who oversees technology across the company. “It’s a perfect use case for smart AI because it’s a big cognitive load,” he said, citing decision-making factors such as household budgets, health and nutrition considerations, seasonal produce, cooking skills and meal preparation time.

By integrating Instacart’s own artificial intelligence software with ChatGPT, the new search tool will query more than 1.5 million products at about 75,000 grocers in Instacart’s partner network, he said. Mr. Zhuang described the software integration as “experimenting with what’s possible” with ChatGPT in Instacart’s app.

Instacart handled $29 billion in total sales on its platform last year, an increase of about 16% compared to the previous year, the company told employees on Tuesday. It reported positive net income in the fourth quarter, generating adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization of more than $100 million.

OpenAI, a San Francisco software startup launched in 2015, sought to expand its reach by making it easier to integrate ChatGPT software with third-party applications. To that end, it allows companies like Instacart to build their own tools on top of ChatGPT’s software, said Greg Brockman, chairman, president and co-founder of OpenAI. Mr. Brockman said he sees OpenAI primarily as a development platform that also offers a “killer app.”

On Wednesday, OpenAI released updates to its application programming interface — a piece of software code called an API that allows computer programs to communicate with each other — that includes special protocols for integrating apps with the latest artificial intelligence models for both ChatGPT and Whisper. , OpenAI’s speech recognition tool. Unlike the widely popular online application, which is free and available to anyone, OpenAI charges a fee to access the interface developers need to create new applications.

“I think the entire development community will benefit greatly from the improvements we’ve made in terms of model quality and model speed,” said Mr. Brockman. “We’re working with companies big and small to integrate this technology into the applications they’re interested in,” he said.

OpenAI benefits by feeding user data back into its artificial intelligence models to continuously train and improve the algorithm — though from Wednesday companies can opt out of using their data in this way.

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Since OpenAI launched ChatGTP in November, quick access to the interface has spawned a slew of ChatGPT-integrated business applications.

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Snapchat maker Snap Inc. on Monday launched its own artificial intelligence chatbot for Snapchat+ subscribers, built on ChatGPT’s API. Microsoft corp.
, an OpenAI investor, added ChatGPT technology to its Bing search engine last month. Shopify Inc.,
an e-commerce site builder is also experimenting with ChatGPT, the company said.

Still, some enterprise technology leaders remain wary of integrating ChatGPT into their business technology stacks, citing concerns about data limits, security, and the tool’s reputation as it produces unpredictable results.

Microsoft itself was forced to limit the number of questions its ChatGPT-enabled search engine could ask after users complained of inaccurate and even confusing results.

Similarly, Snap warned users that its customized ChatGPT chatbot is “prone to hallucinating and can be used to trick almost anything,” adding that the tool should not be relied upon for real-world advice.

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Jeff Wong, global chief innovation officer at Ernst & Young, a professional services firm, said that in its current form, ChatGPT’s technology “occasionally provides imprecise confidence responses, the math is off, and the data set only lasts up to a certain date.” He said as the technology evolves, ChatGPT will be tailored to unique industries and be able to provide personalized, human-like advice. “The potential is there,” Mr. Wong said.

Mr. Brockman said it’s important for companies to consider the stakes in how they plan to use ChatGPT technology. “Medical and personal advice, those things are a bit high stakes,” he said.

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“We know that large language model technology is still in its early stages, so we’re building a unique solution that works strictly within food-related topics,” said Instacart’s Mr. Zhuang. “People won’t be able to give it broader instructions, like an essay,” he said.

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He said Instacart plans to do “a lot of testing” before launching the new search engine later this year.

Email Angus Loten at [email protected]

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