Discord isn’t new to artificial intelligence, but it’s certainly making a statement about its commitment to it in its latest blog post. The company has declared its chat app the “place for AI with friends.” Indeed, if you want to bring a seemingly-sentient AI chatbot into a conversation with your favorite online pals, you can—it’s part of a public experiment launching next week.
Discord laid out its vision for the future of its AI in its chat app, which already offers AI-infused moderation and the Midjourney image generator for use within servers. It will start rolling out improved AI capabilities to servers today, including an improved AutoMod, with a full AI chatbot that it hopes will offer a more group-friendly experience than others coming soon. It also teased some of what it’s working on for future updates.
Discord is bringing OpenAI into the chat
On Thursday, Discord announced a “free, public experiment” incorporating a large language model AI chatbot directly into Discord chat. The chatbot is coming courtesy of ChatGPT creator OpenAI and will allow users to “enjoy AI with friends,” emphasizing how generative AI can be used to drive conversation, rather than being limited to a one-on-one Q&A format.
Discord is just the latest major online platform to jump on the hype surrounding large language model chatbots. OpenAI released its API last week while touting itself as a one-stop-shop for any company looking for a quick, relatively cheap way to jump onto the AI bandwagon. Thanks to this API, other platforms like the Salesforce-owned Slack and Snapchat have also integrated limited AI chatbots into their platforms. Let’s also not forget Microsoft, which has also incorporated OpenAI’s tech into its Bing chatbot and the Windows 11 taskbar.
During a presentation to press, the company showed how Discord users in supported servers can invoke an AI chatbot by typing @Clyde—the name of one of Discord’s mascots—into the chat. The chatbot can tell users the time in Tokyo, Japan, for instance, or list the steps for “how to build a birdhouse.”
You can also get the AI to do the job of finding a funny GIF for those pressing moments when it’s late and you’re way too tired to come up with a joke yourself. The Clyde bot should be rolling out to all users next week, according to Discord’s VP of Engineering, Prachi Gupta.
Without getting to test it, it’s unclear whether the AI will be capable of forming any responses beyond simple questions and answers. Discord CEO Jason Citron said he wants this AI to exist in a “safe, positive environment.” You don’t have to look far to find examples of other ChatGPT-based products like Bing creating massive PR headaches, like when it copies the opinions of self-proclaimed misogynist Andrew Tate.
In a statement, Discord said it has not limited the AI from producing opinionated prompts, and it was only starting in a limited number of servers so the company could “learn and iterate.” Time will tell how effectively Discord manages to avoid the worst aspects of LLMs employed on a mass scale.
Discord’s helpful AutoMod AI
For when you’re so busy with life and the pursuit of happiness that you miss out on what your friends were chatting about throughout the week, Discord is introducing two helpful modding and summarizing bots. The first is an expanded AutoMod AI, which will make it easier to knock out nasty chats on a Discord server while the moderators are away. AutoMod AI isn’t new to Discord, but it now uses a larger language model to pick out what preschoolers call “potty talk.” Of course, if that potty talk becomes hateful, the premise is that AutoMod will understand the context enough to alert you the minute it hits the server.
Nothing is worse than when your online friends settle on a date to meet up, and you’re entirely unaware. Discord’s Conversation Summaries feature will help with some of the digital FOMO. Conversation Summaries will bundle similar messages together so you can quickly catch up on what happened and who laughed about what while you were out. However, it has to be enabled by the server owner to work. It’s unclear how it will determine topics of note. At the very least, it’ll likely be easier to follow along with AI-made notes than manual scroll through a long conversation between friends only to realize you missed out on a killer back and forth.
AutoMod AI launches today as an experiment in select servers, while Conversation Summaries will launch in limited capacities starting next week.
Discord’s planned AI features
Discord also took to its blog to show off AI-infused features it’s working on in the background. The first is called Avatar Remix, and it will make it quick to push out memes in the blink of an eye—or click of a mouse, as it were. Avatar Remix will take a user’s avatar and add assets as you prompt the AI with a noun. For instance, if you want to tease your friend about their obsession with birds, you can type out a slash command to instruct the app to add crows all over their avatar, then see what the AI cooks up. This feature is open source; curious developers can grab the GitHub code now to play around with it.
By far, some of the most unhinged nights I have spent on the internet of the Millennial past were global drawing rooms on Yahoo! Chat. Discord’s Whiteboard with AI prototype sounds like a similar concept. The company said it’s exploring a “shared visual space” where you can collaborate with other folks in the chat. It will include an AI-powered text-to-image generator to help you start, so it’s not exactly like the Microsoft Paint UI of those Millennial hey-days. This feature isn’t available yet, but Discord says it’s working on it.
Anjney Midha, Discord’s VP of platform ecosystem, also said to press that 3 million Discord servers with more than 30 million users are already playing around with third-party AI-based apps, such as the aforementioned AI art generator, Midjourney and the AI study buddy, Juni. Midjourney itself is the biggest server on Discord, just due to the 13 million members using the bot to generate free images.
David Holz, the Midjourney CEO, also tried to establish his project as a community-centric endeavor. He said that although his self-titled independent research lab does require users to pay after a certain number of prompts, those funds are used to keep the lights on and the servers running. He added that while a few use Midjourney “professionally,” it’s mostly to make “mood boards” and the like.
Despite that claim, there have been some big-name users who have tried to use Midjourney to make money. Kris Kashtanova, a New York-based artist, was caught in a long rights battle after they initially received copyright on their graphic novel made using Midjourney. The U.S. Copyright Office initially approved their application, though it just recently turned around and revoked copyright on the AI-generated art within the comic. Kashtanova previously said that Midjourney helped them find an attorney to contest the Copyright Office’s decision.
Regardless of AI controversy, Discord is trying to become a hotspot for AI development. To incentivize even more companies to create AI tech within the chat platform, the company said it was extending its existing $5 million ecosystem fund by establishing an “AI incubator.” Midha said that, in addition to cash grants, devs also get access to Discord development teams and early access to platform features.
Update 3/9/2020 at 2:54 PM ET:
This post originally said that Discord’s AI chat bot launches today. It is actually launching next week. It also misrepresented the launch date of Anthropic’s Claude chatbot.