Rakuten gets into the LLM game

Plus the EU pushes forward with AI regulation

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Rakuten orders its own LLM

Japan-based retail giant Rakuten says it has plans to introduce its own LLM.
Rakuten CEO Hiroshi Mikitani has told CNBC that the company has a “very unique” dataset, and that the model it is building will be used to improve internal efficiency by as much as 20 percent. 

Mikitani also says Rakuten’s AI will be offered to outside companies, suggesting it could compete with tools from the likes of Amazon and Microsoft.

Mikitani notes the company expects to “have something within a couple of months,” though Rakuten itself says it has not made any decisions about a product rollout.

Why it matters: Rakuten’s LLM announcement comes as the Japanese government is making some big financial commitments to boost the nation’s standing in the AI space. But with so many other Big Tech companies already staking out their positions, it remains to be seen whether Rakuten can be competitive.

CNBC | Link to story.

Europe’s AI clampdown begins

The European Union is inching closer to establishing a set of rules that will regulate AI across member states.

A provisional deal has been agreed between the European Parliament and the 27 member countries that make up the EU. As Reuters notes, the broad agreement covers several areas, including how national governments will be able to use AI technology within their own borders, as well as requiring more transparency from companies like OpenAI and Google

Finer details are still to be hashed out before the accord will go through the process of becoming law.

Why it matters: The EU is positioning itself to be the first major body to enact AI laws that will impact hundreds-of-millions of people. For lawmakers around the world, it could be a signal of what citizens and companies will - and will not - tolerate.

Reuters | Link to story.

France’s AI darling valued at $2B

French AI startup Mistral AI has raised €385 million (about $415 million) led by Andreessen Horowitz on a valuation of roughly $2.1 billion.

Mistral AI was established in May of this year, and quickly secured approximately $110 million in its first round of funding. 

The company has built an open-source LLM, which some suggest could become a notable competitor to OpenAI’sChatGPT. However, unlike its US-based peer, Mistral AI is primarily developer focused and does not currently offer a consumer-centric interface.

Why it matters: While there has been a lot of noise about US AI companies (OpenAI, Google, Microsoft, Meta, etc.), it’s clear that other nations are not sleeping on the rapidly-evolving technology. And with a heavyweight investor like Andreessen Horowitz throwing money at European LLM-makers, expect to see more AI startups cropping up around the world.

France24 | Link to story.

Using AI to converse with the dead

The New York Times profiles the practice of people using AI to maintain a link to people who have died.

The piece explores the work of HereAfter AI and StoryFile - two AI companies that offer synthesized interactions with people who were recorded before they passed. 

StoryFile captured actor Ed Asner (UpElfLou Grant) prior to his death in 2021. His son Matt Asner said interactions with the resulting avatar made for a “relevant and meaningful” experience. Asner noted other people felt uncomfortable about the recreation of his deceased father.

Why it matters: Perhaps the ability to easily memorialize ourselves as an AI avatar is just around the corner. After all, it wasn’t so long ago that DNA testing was the bleeding edge of science - now we can all learn about our genetic histories via a home-test kit.

The New York Times | Link to story (paywall).

Profile Picture of Tom Wilton

Written By: Tom Wilton

Lead Newsletter Writer

Published Date: Dec 12, 2023

Japan’s e-commerce giant is building an LLM, while the EU is getting serious about AI regulation.