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UiPath and the AI assistants transforming the world of work

In his conversation with Opto Sessions, Brandon Deer, chief strategy officer at UiPath, invited listeners to imagine a world in which computers could execute their most mundane tasks for them. Here, we explore the companies and laboratories that are making this world a reality, and how their products relate to and integrate with one another.

- OpenAI is behind GPT as well as products like DALL-E and Codex.

- UiPath develops RPA tools to automate mundane business processes.

- Anthropic’s Claude is built on principles of helpfulness, honesty and harmlessness.

 

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“Imagine a world where you have something that you do in your day-to-day — file your expenses, for example, or prove something on behalf of one of your employees,” begins Brandon Deer, UiPath’s chief strategy officer, on this week’s episode of the Opto Sessions podcast. But, “instead of having to actually do that every day, through some sort of widget, you can just say, ‘Hey, build me a process to do this thing’. And a robot can be spun up to execute that on your behalf.”

That world has all but arrived. The laboratories developing artificial intelligence (AI) have transformed the landscape in 2023, and the major players in AI-powered assistants are tussling to dominate the space.

ChatGPT has dominated the headlines over the past few months, to the point at which it is often used erroneously as a blanket term for the new wave of generative AI products. In reality, it is just one of OpenAI’s products based off the company’s generative pre-trained transformer (GPT) models. Its free-to-use version operates using its GPT-3.5 series, although ChatGPT Plus subscribers can access the more powerful GPT-4 version.

OpenAI also created DALL-E, a program that produces images based on text input, as well as Codex, the text-to-code model that powers Github’s Copilot AI assistant.

AI’s major players

OpenAI is majority-owned by Microsoft [MSFT]. Investors seeking exposure should be aware, however, that OpenAI is a capped-for-profit company; Microsoft will receive almost half of its returns until a portion of its investments are repaid.

Last week, OpenAI unveiled plans for ChatGPT Business, a subscription tier to be released later in the year. The company will also address privacy concerns by offering users the ability to clear their chat history and block conversations from being used to train and improve the model.

The investment case for Microsoft revolves around integrating OpenAI’s technology into its own products. It is likely to boost Azure’s ability to compete with Amazon’s [AMZN] AWS, while its integration into the Bing search engine brings it into direct competition with Alphabet’s [GOOGL] Google Search.

With skin in the AI game since its acquisition of DeepMind in 2014, Google parent Alphabet was never likely sit back as its competitors made publicised gains in the space.

Meanwhile, Alphabet launched Bard, its own ChatGPT competitor, in March With employees describing the launch as “rushed” at the time, certain flaws have since come to light. Employees have pointed out that teams appointed to safeguard the product’s ethics and safety were told not to stand in the way of its development.

Having promised to continue to improve the product, Google integrated the ability to write code (which ChatGPT had been able to do since its launch) in April.

Lesser-known players

Part of the reason OpenAI has generated so much hype so quickly is that its products have suddenly made AI widely available to the public. However, companies like UiPath [PATH] have been quietly weaving AI into the business tapestry for decades.

In his conversation with Opto Sessions, Brandon Deer outlined UiPath’s robotic process automation tools. These tools, such as Clipboard AI, seek to shift the burden of repetitive, mundane tasks onto AI. According to UiPath’s website, its products “can read documents and emails, analyse language and images and understand the intent and content of communications”.

The company offers integration with the OpenAI API, allowing its own automation robots to connect directly to OpenAI’s tools. “We’ve long been partners,” said Deer of UiPath’s collaboration with the company.

Another noteworthy assistant is Claude, a chatbot developed by AI house Anthropic.

Claude was tested by companies including DuckDuckGo, Notion and Quora; it is one of the AI partners of Notion AI. 

“Claude's uniquely creative writing and summarisation abilities contribute to the development of our connected AI assistant, Notion AI,” said Akshay Kothari, co-founder and chief operating officer of Notion.

With the ability to search across documents and produce summaries, there is a clear overlap between Claude’s use cases and those of UiPath’s tools. It is also well-suited to handling mundane customer service tasks, and can be trained to know when to hand off complex tasks to a human. It is based on the HHH principle: helpful, honest and harmless.

Like OpenAI, Anthropic is a player in the AI Cold War playing out between the big tech companies. Google led a $300m investment round for Anthropic in February, with Spark Capital leading another of the same size in March, according to Crunchbase.

Investing in AI

Investors seeking exposure to the AI theme could consider developers such as UiPath, Google or Microsoft. However, like OpenAI and Anthropic, most AI labs are private companies, a function of the relative youthfulness of the field: “We're in the very early innings of this,” as Deer told Opto Sessions.

ETFs such the Global X Robotics & Artificial Intelligence ETF [BOTZ] offer exposure to companies that are fusing AI with industrial processes. BOTZ has a 2.84% weighting in UiPath as of 4 May.

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