ChatGPT Upgrade Lets You Browse the Web, Buy Groceries and More

If you’ve ever tried to ask ChatGPT on current events, you know the chatbot could only successfully spit out a limited set of responses, if at all. It changes.

On Thursday, artificial intelligence company OpenAI announced that it was gradually rolling out plugins for ChatGPTin a move that greatly expands the functionality of the chatbot.

The first wave of plugins, now available in alpha for select ChatGPT users and developers, enables ChatGPT to leverage new sources of live data across the web, including third-party sources such as Expedia, Kayak, and Instagram. This allows ChatGPT to browse the web and perform tasks such as booking flights and even buying groceries, among many other tasks. Prior to this upgrade, ChatGPT was limited to pulling insights from its training data, which worked until 2021.

“While not a perfect analogy, plugins can be ‘eyes and ears’ for language models, giving them access to information that is too recent, too personal, or too specific to include. in training data,” OpenAI said on its website.

For example, ChatGPT can now find answers to questions about how the box office sales of this year’s Oscar winners compare to those of other recently released films. This new functionality is served through the browser plugin, which shows the sources from which the generative AI service pulls information before spitting out a response.

“Plugins are still very experimental but we think there’s something great going in that direction,” OpenAI co-founder Sam Altman wrote in a tweet THURSDAY. “This is a highly requested feature.”

ChatGPT, which puts a conversational-style interface on top of an artificial intelligence construct known as the Great Language Model, has been the buzz at the center of the tech world since its debut in November. Over the past few months, companies from Google and Microsoft to Adobe, Snapchat and Grammarly have been racing to show off and release similar generative AI capabilities in their own products.

But there are marked imperfections in the results produced by services like ChatGPT. OpenAI’s own research has shown that a chatbot with internet access is a risky prospect. For example, it may tend to cite unreliable sources or, as OpenAI points out, “increase security issues by taking harmful or unintended actions, increasing the capabilities of bad actors who would defraud, mislead, or abuse others”.

Proponents of these AI services have focused on the benefits.

A video posted to Twitter by OpenAI co-founder Greg Brockman on Thursday shows how to use ChatGPT’s Instacart plugin to help with meal planning. The video shows ChatGPT recommending a chickpea salad recipe, then finally adding the required ingredients to Instacart for purchase with just a few prompts.

A video posted on Expedia’s Twitter account demonstrates how to leverage the Expedia plugin to essentially turn ChatGPT into your AI travel agent, helping travelers book flights and hotels. This is something ChatGPT couldn’t do before, although it can identify places and create a route.

“You can install plugins to help you with a wide variety of tasks. We’re excited to see what developers create!” Altman wrote on Twitter.

Some of the preliminary plugins on ChatGPT.

OpenAi/Screenshot by CNET’s Sareena Dayaram

To address risks in the responses ChatGPT provides to queries, OpenAI said it has safeguards in place and has limited access to a small group of users and developers to begin with. Interested parties can join a waiting list here.

Editors’ note: CNET uses an AI engine to create personal finance explanations that are edited and verified by our editors. To learn more, see this post.

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