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Beyond chatbots: AI builds productivity pitch



Conversational AI, or artificial intelligence, can be incredible fun. ChatGPT and Microsoft’s chatbot Bing search, have successfully positioned AI on almost everyone’s radar. Yet, there is more to this AI, than a chatty search engine or being the port of call for often trivial conversations. Microsoft, Google, OpenAI with its new GPT-4 and Meta are piecing together the next evolution of AI, which will have a bigger role in the apps you use.

Applications will continue to be in focus, as conversational AI expands its horizons. (Representative Image)

Microsoft has confirmed it will add a layer of AI to Word, PowerPoint, Outlook, Teams, and workplace apps including Viva — all part of the Microsoft 365 subscription – in a feature called ‘Copilot’. The functionality, which will vary for each app, includes generating pointers for upcoming meetings, creating draft documents with the ability to scan information from existing documents, analyse spreadsheets, draft email replies, and scan transcripts to summarise meetings.

It isn’t difficult to peg this as a well-thought-out response to Google, which is putting together AI functionality in its Workspace apps. The company says it’ll be available to everyone by the end of this year. Microsoft is yet to confirm a roadmap for a commercial release.

Google’s pitch with AI in Google Docs and other apps has a similar wide scope. As of now, the list includes drafting as well as replying to emails within Gmail, writing and proofreading documents, creating slideshows, and capturing notes in Meet meetings.

As we have seen already with AI chatbots, they can often go wrong with facts or context. Late last year, Meta pulled the plug on Galactica AI three days after opening it to the public. It had responded to queries with inaccuracies and misinformation, citing fictitious research papers attributed to real authors. This was most likely a result of gaps in data sets or an incomplete ranking of responses.

This is something tech giants continue to warn about. Google’s tentative steps with the Bard chatbot being a testament to the concern. “Our goal is to continue to be bold and responsible in our approach and partner with others to improve our AI models so they’re safe and helpful for everyone,” says Thomas Kurian, CEO, Google Cloud.

Meta, earlier this year released LLaMA, or Large Language Model Meta AI to researchers. The company is not taking any risks after Galactica. “There is still more research that needs to be done to address the risks of bias, toxic comments, and hallucinations in large language models,” it said in a statement at the time.

“Sometimes Copilot will be right, other times usefully wrong,” says Jared Spataro, corporate vice president, Modern Work & Business Applications at Microsoft, in a statement. The first glimpse of Copilot hints at a set of features which should automate certain time-consuming tasks, including document drafts, managing mailbox clutter, and decoding complex spreadsheets.

The global chatbot market size is expected to be worth as much as $3.99 billion by 2030, according to Grand View Research’s latest data.

Bing crossed 100 million daily active users, within the first two weeks of an invite-only release. This number will grow, with new Bing now integrated within the Edge browser app for Android and iPhone, as well as prominent integration on Windows PCs. OpenAI’s ChatGPT averages 13 million unique visitors a day, according to analytics firm Similarweb.

Applications will continue to be in focus, as conversational AI expands its horizons.

OpenAI has rolled out the next iteration of its AI language model, GPT-4, which will become the foundation for ChatGPT and the new Bing. This iteration is, for all intents and purposes, an iterative update in terms of conversational skills. But it is a significant step forward in other respects, such as the ability to accept image inputs in addition to text and better performance in a number of benchmark tests.

“It is encouraging to see a lot of emphasis on avoiding undesirable side effects and behavior. OpenAI evaluated GPT-4 for a wide range of risks such as hallucination and harmful content and claim that it is 82% less likely to respond to questions that are not allowed and reduces false positives,” Peter van der Putten, director AI Lab, Pegasystems and Assistant Professor at Leiden University, tells HT.

OpenAI’s focus is on scaling, with the start-up confirming platforms such as Duolingo, Be My Eyes, Stripe, and Khan Academy, are already using GPT-4. Grammarly’s new AI proofreading tool will be available as a beta service, in April.

Another OpenAI speech recognition project, Whisper, is being used to build tools that help add AI generated subtitles to video editing apps, such as DaVinci Resolve. Popular search engine and web browser app, DuckDuckGo, is using ChatGPT and Google-backed Anthropic’s language models for Duck Assist – this tool summarises information from Wikipedia, for a search you may have embarked on.

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FM Sitharaman reviews public sector banks’ performance amid global crisis



Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Saturday reviewed the performance of public sector banks (PSBs) on various financial health parameters and their resilience in the wake of the current global financial scenario emanating from the failure of some international banks in the US and Europe.

Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman chairs a meeting to review the performance of Public Sector Banks on various financial, efficiency, and health parameters, in New Delhi on Saturday. (ANI Photo)(NSitharaman Office Twitter)

She urged the banks to remain vigilant about the interest rate risks and regularly undertake stress tests.

During the two hours meeting with MDs and CEOs of PSBs, an open discussion was held on the global scenario amid the failure of the Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) and Signature Bank (SB), along with the issues leading to the crisis in Credit Suisse.

The meeting was also attended by Minister of State for Finance Bhagwat Karad, Financial Services Secretary Vivek Joshi and other senior officials, an official statement said.

She also discussed the developing and immediate external global financial stress from both short and long-term perspectives.

During the PSB review meeting, she emphasised that the banks should undertake due diligence and adhere to the regulatory framework by focusing on risk management and diversification of deposits and assets base.

ALSO READ: Massive job cuts in India due to Silicon Valley Bank collapse? Experts say…

The finance minister underlined that PSBs must look at business models closely to identify stress points, including concentration risks and adverse exposures, the statement said, adding that she also exhorted PSBs to use this opportunity to frame detailed crisis management and communication strategies.

The chiefs of PSBs apprised Sitharaman that they follow the best corporate governance practices, adhere to regulatory norms, ensure prudent liquidity management and continue to focus on having robust asset-liability and risk management.

Further, she was also informed by the PSBs that they are vigilant of developments in the global banking sector and are taking all possible steps to safeguard themselves from any potential financial shock.

All the major financial parameters indicate stable and resilient PSBs with robust financial health, it added.

The minister also stressed that PSBs must leverage the full potential of branches opened in International Financial Services Centres in GIFT City Gujarat to identify international opportunities, including prospects related to Persons of Indian Origin (PIOs).

She asked banks to take focused measures to attract deposits, given the steps taken by the government to reduce the tax arbitrage in some debt instruments and pivot their strengthened financial position to support the credit needs of the growing economy.

The minister asked banks to focus on credit outreach in states where the credit offtake is lower than the national average, particularly in the northeast and eastern parts of the country, and enhance business presence in new and emerging areas like One District One Product (ODOP), e-NAM and drones.

She said PSBs should promote the Mahila Samman Bachat Patra, announced in the Budget, through special drives and campaigns and also focus on increasing brick-and-mortar banking presence in border and coastal areas.

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Inside a $218 million private island in Palm Beach, Florida



A private island in Palm Beach could become the most-expensive home ever sold in Florida, if it gets its asking price of $218 million.

Developer Todd Michael Glaser and his partners bought 10 Tarpon Isle — the only private island in Palm Beach — for $85 million in 2021. They built a brand new house, turned the existing structure into a guest house, and added a giant pool, tennis courts and other amenities and have now relisted the property.

“I paid $85 million without a hesitation because there’s only one of them,” Glaser said. “You watch art, they sell. There’s a Mercedes 300 SLR that just sold for $142 million. … That’s what this is … it’s a one of one.”

Tarpon Isle, a private island in Palm Beach, Florida, is on sale for $218 million.


When Glaser bought Tarpon Isle, it held a modest 1940s house and plenty of potential.

“I came over the bridge, I saw the two trees and I said, ‘Guys, let’s knock down the garage and the guest house and the maid’s quarters and let’s build a brand new house,'” Glaser said.

The new main house is over 9,000 square feet. With the guest house, tennis pavilion and other structures, the property now has over 21,000 feet of living space. There are 11 bedrooms, 15 full bathrooms and seven half-baths.

Tarpon Isle, a private island in Palm Beach, Florida, is on sale for $218 million.


Unlike many Palm Beach mansions, which are Mediterranean-styled giants festooned with gold carvings and mahogany, Tarpon Isle is a study in modern simplicity, where the star of the home is sweeping water views on all four sides.

The master bedroom suite is a large complex of closets, bathrooms and sitting areas. The larger of two bathrooms is a temple of white Italian marble, covering the floors, countertops, ceiling and oversized shower. A large soaking tub perched in front of the windows overlooks the Intracoastal Waterway.

A waterfront bathroom inside the main home on Tarpon Isle, a private island in Palm Beach, Florida, on sale for $218 million.


“It’s the best bathroom I ever did,” Glaser said. “My wife picked it, and she did an incredible job. I’ve never seen anything like this bathroom.”

Outside, there’s a new 98-foot pool overlooking the views of the water to the south. A large dock can fit multiple boats or a mega-yacht. The guest house features resort-like amenities, including a spa, massage room, salon and entertainment area.

“That’s the way we designed it,” Glaser said. “When people come to Palm Beach they bring their families, they’re on vacation.”

A dock servicing Tarpon Isle, a private island in Palm Beach, Florida, on sale for $218 million.


Glaser said the human-made island, which was built in the 1940s, has a high sea wall. Because it’s well protected in the Intracoastal and well elevated, it has easily weathered big storms and tidal surges, he said.

Granted, $218 million is an ambitious price, even for Palm Beach. The record sale in the enclave was Oracle founder Larry Ellison’s $173 million purchase of billionaire Jim Clark’s oceanfront estate last year.

A living space inside the main home on Tarpon Isle, a private island in Palm Beach, Florida, on sale for $218 million.


Palm Beach is the most expensive real estate market in the country, with an average sale price of nearly $13 million, according to Douglas Elliman and Miller Samuel. Many homes saw their prices more than triple during the pandemic as ultra-wealthy buyers from the Northeast fled to Florida, and the coveted properties in Palm Beach in particular.

Christopher Leavitt of Douglas Elliman, who is listing the property alongside Christian Angle Real Estate, said interest in the property has been strong, especially from hedge fund managers and finance chiefs looking to relocate south.

“The buyer of this home is someone who wants the one and only private island on the island of Palm Beach, surrounded 360 degrees by water, accessible by your boat or a private bridge,” Leavitt said. “It’s somebody who wants that one property that no one else has, that one trophy property.” 

Glaser declined to say what profit he would make if the home sells for its asking price. He added that he and his investors spent “a fortune” on the new home and improvements. But he said the buyer will be making a long-term investment.

“Whoever buys this house, in five years they’re going to be very happy with the purchase,” he said. “It’s a legacy property that they’ll own for the rest of their lives.”

Tarpon Isle, a private island in Palm Beach, Florida, is on sale for $218 million.


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Why there may be no return to ‘normal’ for the used vehicle market



Customers browse in a used car lot on February 15, 2023 in Glendale, California.

Mario Tama | Getty Images

All new vehicles become used cars and trucks once they’re sold.

It’s an obvious statement, but one that needs to be laid out to explain the root cause for ongoing inventory and pricing issues in the U.S. used vehicle market, which has been a barometer for the country’s inflation levels.

During the onset of the coronavirus pandemic in early 2020, automakers shuttered factories for weeks to stop the spread of Covid-19. It was an unprecedented action that eventually led to additional supply chain problems, such as an ongoing semiconductor chip shortage, causing factories to cease production again for weeks, if not months, at a time in recent years.

The lack of production meant fewer new vehicles would become used models for consumers to purchase, leading to inventory constraints in both the new and used vehicle markets, as well as record prices due to resilient demand.

It’s been three years since those initial plant closures, but American consumers — as well as the Biden administration — hoping for the used vehicle market to return to “normal” pre-pandemic levels shouldn’t hold their breath.

A notable decline in used vehicle prices toward the end of last year has been roughly cut in half in 2023, as inventories remain significantly down following vehicle-production disruptions. There’s also been an uncharacteristically large number of consumers buying out leases to avoid sky-high car prices and increasing interest rates.

“It looks like it will persist for some time,” said Chris Frey, senior industry insights manager at Cox Automotive. “It’s really a function of this hole in new production, creating a dynamic where wholesale or general used values are higher because there are millions of fewer new vehicles that would eventually turn into used.”

Cox Automotive reports wholesale used vehicle prices are up by 8.8% this year through mid-March, according to the Manheim Used Vehicle Value Index, which tracks vehicles sold to dealers at auction. The prices are trending higher, and the index is heading back toward a record of 257.7 basis points set at the start of 2022. It was 238.6 as of mid-March.

Used vehicle inventory is down 21% from a year ago and off a whopping 26% from pre-pandemic levels of 2.8 million available vehicles in 2019. Cox Automotive doesn’t expect the total number of used sales to return to pre-pandemic levels of about 38.2 million units until at least 2026, Frey said.

Adding to the production hole is a change in leasing. Cox reports a 20% increase in consumers who leased their vehicles buying them out instead of trading them in from 2019 to 2022. The increase occurred as residual values of the vehicles in some cases were far above expectations, making it significantly cheaper to buy the vehicle than lease another amid inflated prices and rising interest rates.

“It’s still under a lot of pressure, just like it was last year,” said Benjamin Preston, an autos reporter for Consumer Reports. “Prices came down a little bit … but the bottom line is they’re just way higher than they were before the pandemic.”

Cox Automotive previously forecast wholesale prices on the Manheim Used Vehicle Value Index to end 2023 down 4.3% from December 2022. The company has not revised that forecast but may need to do so amid the increasing wholesale prices.

Cox reports the average listed price of a used vehicle was $26,068 in February, the most recent data available, down from records last year of more than $28,000 but significantly higher than the roughly $22,000 average it reported two years ago. Retail prices for consumers traditionally follow changes in wholesale prices.

So, what’s the solution? There’s no other course but an increase in new vehicles being produced in order to boost the number of future used models. Automakers are expected to lift production this year, but they’ve also pledged to not overbuild like they have in the past.

“We’re unlikely to go back to pre-pandemic levels. Vehicles cost way more now,” Frey said regarding used car pricing. “The landscape has changed. [Automakers] are not manufacturing as many as they have because they got the taste of gold — huge profits from not having so many vehicles in manufacturing.”

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