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Generative AI is having a throw-everything-at-the-wall moment

It seems like every day another company announces a new generative AI product or service. From apps that summarize your meetings to platforms that help with photo editing and customer support bots, generative AI is all any tech firm wants to talk about.

Still, not every piece of generative AI software is going to be a breakthrough like OpenAI’s ChatGPT, the bot that helped kick off this new tech revolution. But don’t expect that to slow the seemingly endless parade of platforms and tools coming to market. Even if some of those products appear doomed from the outset.

“I think we are in kind of a ‘spaghetti-at-the-wall’ stage,” explained Emily DeJeu, assistant teaching professor at Carnegie Mellon University’s Tepper School of Business.

“We're just trying to find … what is the use-case for this? And in order to figure that out, it's almost like …we're going to do everything with it.”

Generative AI everywhere

The fact that generative AI is spawning a slew of new products shouldn’t be all that surprising. After all, we’ve seen the tech industry respond to huge trends like this in the same way before.


“[It] reminds me a lot of the dot-com boom in the very late '90s, early 2000s, where everybody's like, ‘I need to get a website,’” explained Jennifer Golbeck, professor and director of the Social Intelligence Lab at the University of Maryland.

A series of servers powering Google's Gemini AI platform. (Image: Google)
A series of servers powering Google's Gemini AI platform. (Image: Google) (Google)

“They didn't really know what they wanted to do with it, but they just didn't want to get left behind, and they were really attracted to all the promise of what that tech was going to do,” she added.

And as with the dot-com boom, we’re seeing some generative AI capabilities that feel superfluous at best. Think Google (GOOG, GOOGL) and Samsung offering an AI feature that changes the tone of your text message, so you sound more or less professional.

“[The] vast, vast majority of these vendors are trying to figure out a product-market fit, and they don't yet have a product market fit,” said Arun Chandrasekaran, distinguished vice president and analyst at Gartner.

In other words, some companies are releasing generative AI products and services, even if it doesn’t seem like there’s a customer desire or need for them.

That isn’t necessarily all bad, though, explained Stefano Puntoni, co-director of AI at Wharton. After all, experimenting with different generative AI products will inevitably help the best rise to the top, while the worst will fall to the wayside.

A man uses a mobile phone as he walks past outside Fira Barcelona, venue of the Mobile World Congress (MWC), in Barcelona on February 23, 2024. The world's biggest mobile phone fair throws open its doors in Barcelona on February 26 with the sector looking to artificial intelligence to try and reverse declining sales. Phone makers are expected to focus on the unique AI-powered tools of their latest handsets at the four-day Mobile World Congress in Barcelona where 95,000 attendees and 2,400 exhibitors from around the world are awaited for this event. (Photo by Josep LAGO / AFP) (Photo by JOSEP LAGO/AFP via Getty Images)
A man uses a mobile phone as he walks past outside Fira Barcelona, venue of the Mobile World Congress (MWC), in Barcelona on February 23, 2024.(Photo by JOSEP LAGO/AFP via Getty Images) (JOSEP LAGO via Getty Images)

A confusing market

Still, the glut of generative AI products can also create confusion among enterprise and consumer customers.

“This is completely overwhelming the buyers of technology ... whether that's a consumer, whether that's an enterprise CIO,” Chandrasekaran explained. “This is really overwhelming them, the choice that they have, and [they are] really trying to discern the differences between these different companies and different products and what they offer.”

Couple that with the breakneck pace at which AI products are evolving, and it becomes difficult for customers to keep up.

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Subscribe to the Yahoo Finance Tech newsletter. (Yahoo Finance)

It’s not just the enormous number of new AI services, either. Some companies are marketing software as generative AI or AI-powered when, in fact, it isn’t, a practice known as AI-washing.

“I think a really crucial piece of this is that a lot of different things are being called AI, not all of which I think really belong as part of this revolution that we're undergoing,” explained Neil Thompson, director of the FutureTech research project at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab.

In December, Securities and Exchange Commission chair Gary Gensler warned companies against AI-washing schemes, or else they'll face repercussions.

We’re still in the early stages of the generative AI revolution, which means companies will launch even more AI-powered products and services in the months ahead. Some will stick around, others will fail, and the industry will just have to see which ones come out on top.

Daniel Howley is the tech editor at Yahoo Finance. He's been covering the tech industry since 2011. You can follow him on Twitter @DanielHowley.

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