ChatGPT-maker OpenAI is in advanced talks with iPhone designer and former Chief Design Officer of Apple Jony Ive, and SoftBank’s Masayashi Son top develop an ‘iPhone of AI’, with more than $1 billion of funding from the Japanese firm, the Financial Times reported on Thursday. The story follows a previous report suggesting that the three parties were discussing the development of an AI hardware device.
Jony Ive left Apple in 2019 to start his independent design company, LoveFrom, which currently works for clients like Airbnb and Ferrari. During his 27 years at Apple, he played a key role by working closely with Steve Jobs and overseeing the design of products like the iPhone, iPad, and iMac.
Sam Altman, the CEO of OpenAI, has engaged LoveFrom to develop the company’s first consumer device, according to the latest report that refers three anonymous sources. The specifics of design and device are at an ‘early-stage’ with the two exploring different ideas, aiming to craft an AI interaction that feels as organic and user-friendly as the iPhone’s touchscreen advancements, which revolutionized accessibility to the broader mobile internet audience.
SoftBank’s CEO, Masayoshi Son, is also involved in the discussions and has proposed an investment, along with a significant role for Arm, the British chip designer in which SoftBank holds a 90 percent stake.
The three have discussed the potential of forming a venture that could draw talent from their respective groups, noted the report, citing individuals familiar with the situation. While the discussions are in advanced stages, no agreement has been reached. It might be several months before any official announcement on the venture is made.
The last few weeks have been very busy for OpenAI. It has announced voice chat and image features in ChatGPT, making the AI chatbot multimodal. It has also announced DALL-E 3, the latest version of its image-generation model, and relaunch of browsing feature on ChatGPT, in the last few days. The company is also reportedly in talks with investors for a secondary sale at a valuation between $80 to $90 billion.
And now the these reports of potentially building a new hardware device. It is too early to make anything out of it but OpenAI isn’t the first company to venture into creating a new kind of AI device. Several others have been exploring this avenue for a while, including Humane, an AI startup formed by former Apple employees. They have crafted a unique AI wearable, which as showcased at TED by their founder, is compact gadget that fits in a breast pocket, and comes equipped with a camera, projector, and speaker.
It handles calls, responds to queries, translates sentences, summarizes digital communications, and provides dietary advice, all while operating independently of other devices. The aim is to foster a more natural interaction by moving away from traditional screen interfaces. Sam is an investor in Humane.
It remains uncertain what the ideal form factor would be for a device that is fundamentally built around AI. Meta’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg has expressed his enthusiasm for glasses, suggesting that they’re a perfect device to build on AI as they can “see what you see and hear what you hear from your perspective.”
It might take a few years before we witness a new kind of device dominating the world, or perhaps we’ll remain tethered to our phones.