Meta and Elon Musk’s xAI fight to partner with chatbot group Character.ai

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Meta and Elon Musk’s xAI have been vying for a partnership with chatbot maker Character.ai, as deep-pocketed tech groups swarm around Silicon Valley’s hottest AI startups.

Facebook owner Meta recently held initial talks about a partnership with Character.ai, which uses large language models to generate conversations in the style of various figures and characters, according to four people familiar with the matter.

The groups discussed their top researchers working closely on initiatives such as pre-training and model development, some of the people said.

The fledgling group, which is backed by Silicon Valley venture firm Andreessen Horowitz, has also held exploratory talks with xAI about a similar partnership, two people with knowledge of the discussions said.

However, the talks have not led to any agreement, the people added.

The interest in Character.ai is the latest sign of how major technology groups are looking to secure partnerships and investments in top AI startups, as they compete with each other to develop cutting-edge technology.

Meta said in September that it was bringing artificially intelligent human chatbots to Instagram, Facebook and WhatsApp, including several that play famous characters such as rapper Snoop Dogg.

Meanwhile, xAI has developed its own chatbot, Grok, which is available to premium subscribers on X, the social media platform that Musk also owns.

Discussions focused on advancing research rather than an acquisition, one of the people said.

Big tech groups have been cautious about pursuing full acquisitions of artificial intelligence startups for fear of regulatory action around the world.

Microsoft’s alliance with OpenAI, valued at $13 billion, is under scrutiny by competition authorities in the United Kingdom and the United States, despite the two groups insisting that their partnership is not a merger.

Meta has also been in touch with other AI companies about potential partnerships, a person with knowledge of its strategy said.

These moves come as the platform increases its investments in AI and aims to become “the world’s leading AI company,” according to CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

Adept, an AI agent startup led by former OpenAI and Google AI developers, has also held talks with Meta about a sale or strategic partnership, according to a person familiar with the matter. News of the deal with Adept was first reported by The Information on Wednesday.

Meta has taken a different approach than its biggest rivals in developing AI models.

The company’s flagship Llama models are open source, meaning their source code is freely available to the public and to developers who build on the platform. OpenAI, Anthropic and Google, on the other hand, have developed proprietary “closed” models.

Meta’s models are a cheaper alternative for companies and developers, but investors have resisted at the expense of keeping pace with their rivals.

Last month, Meta lost nearly $200 billion in market value when Zuckerberg pledged to increase spending on AI as part of his work toward developing artificial general intelligence, loosely defined as AI capable of outperforming humans in a variety of ways. of tasks.

Musk’s xAI is closing in on a $6 billion fundraising, which the serial entrepreneur hopes will help him gain traction on OpenAI, Google, and Meta.

He has spoken of his desire to build an “AI that seeks the ultimate truth” and his pitch to investors is that access to the data and expertise of his other companies, such as Tesla and X, gives him an advantage over his rivals.

Noam Shazeer, founder of Character.ai and former Google researcher, was one of the authors of a 2017 paper that proposed the transformative model, which underpins today’s best AI models.

According to a person who knows Shazeer, he is focused on developing AGI and finding more resources to do so. Character.ai is also exploring partnerships with other groups, a person familiar with his strategy said.

Character.ai and Meta declined to comment. Musk did not respond to a request for comment.

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