OpenAI is in advanced discussions with former Apple designer Sir Jony Ive and SoftBank’s Masayoshi Son to launch a venture focused on creating the ‘iPhone of artificial intelligence.’ This ambitious project is backed by over $1 billion in funding from the Japanese conglomerate.
Sam Altman, the Chief of OpenAI, has enlisted Ive’s firm, LoveFrom, which the renowned designer established after departing from Apple in 2019, to work on OpenAI’s first consumer device, sources familiar with the plan have revealed.
Altman and Ive have engaged in brainstorming sessions at Ive’s San Francisco studio to explore what a new consumer product centered on OpenAI’s technology could look like. Their goal is to deliver a more natural and intuitive user experience for interacting with AI, akin to how the iPhone’s touchscreen innovations unlocked the mass-market potential of mobile internet.
While discussions are at a preliminary stage, with numerous ideas on the table, the process of identifying a specific design or device is ongoing.
Masayoshi Son, the Founder and CEO of SoftBank, has also been part of these discussions and has proposed a significant role for Arm, the chip design company in which SoftBank holds a 90% stake, as well as offering financial support. The discussions involve establishing a company that leverages talent and technology from all three entities, with SoftBank investing more than $1 billion in the venture.
While the discussions are described as ‘serious,’ no deal has been finalized, and it may be several months before an official venture announcement is made. Additionally, it is anticipated that any resulting hardware product will take several years to bring to market.
OpenAI, SoftBank, and LoveFrom have all declined to comment on the matter. The Information previously reported certain aspects of their product discussions.
Jony Ive played a pivotal role in the development of the first iPhone, launched in 2007, ushering in a new era of personal computing. However, with the smartphone market plateauing, the tech industry has been pondering the potential next big consumer electronics device.
Virtual reality headsets like Meta’s Quest and smart speakers like Amazon’s Echo have been considered contenders, but none have come close to matching the smartphone’s ubiquity and essential status.
For Ive, concerns have arisen about the compulsive behavior of many smartphone users. In a 2018 interview with the Financial Times, he emphasized Apple’s ‘moral responsibility’ to mitigate unintended consequences of the iPhone, such as addictive apps, and mentioned limiting his children’s screen time.
The project with OpenAI presents an opportunity to create a more screen-independent way of interacting with computers, aligning with Ive’s vision.
This week, OpenAI unveiled upgrades to its groundbreaking chatbot, ChatGPT, including voice control and image uploading capabilities, as well as web browsing.
The Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday that OpenAI, backed by Microsoft, is considering a share sale that could value the San Francisco-based company at up to $90 billion, tripling its valuation in less than a year.