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Who is using generative AI? And why?

December 11, 2023 | By Rande Price, Research VP – DCN

Generative AI can compose content with simple prompts. Where AI used to be the stuff of science fiction and provenance of companies with deep tech expertise, this latest evolution puts these capabilities in the hands of anyone and everyone. Generative AI is a truly transformative technology. A new report from UK communications regulator Ofcom, the Online Nation 2023 Report, includes a section that delves into user adoption of generative AI, motivations, and concerns, and offers insights into this evolving technological paradigm.

Ofcom’s research highlights significant usage of generative AI among UK internet users. Three in 10 respondents, ages 16+, use generative AI tools, with a notable gender difference – 39% of online men versus 24% of women. Young adults, ages 16 to 24, are the most active users, with 74% engaging with generative AI, while only 14% of those ages 45+ use it.

There are a range of reasons why people use generative AI, as well as of their reasons for trying it. Most respondents (58%) report using generative AI for fun, others cite the desire to chat or explore technology (48%), for work-related purposes (33%), and to assist with studies (25%). However, 69% of internet users claim they have never used generative AI, citing disinterest (36%), lack of need (31%), or unfamiliarity with the technology (24%) as primary reasons.

Generative AI products

OpenAI stands at the forefront of the generative AI landscape, with tools like DALL-E for image generation and ChatGPT, a large language model-based chatbot. According to the Ofcom report, ChatGPT reached 100 million monthly active users globally in January 2023. OpenAI’s offerings include ChatGPT 3.5, a free chatbot, GPT-4 available via subscription, and ChatGPT Enterprise tailored for businesses, which offers enhanced security features.

OpenAI integrated DALL-E 3 into ChatGPT Plus and Enterprise in September 2023, allowing text requests to be translated into detailed images. OpenAI also announced plans for voice and image engagement with ChatGPT. The UK audience for OpenAI’s website is steadily growing among younger adults.

While OpenAI dominates the generative AI landscape, other players are emerging. Though experiencing initial success, Google’s Bard declined in reach from 2% in March 2023 to 1% in May 2023 among UK online adults. However, the company just introduced Gemini, which it claims outperforms ChatGPT. Google is also working on embedding generative AI capabilities into its search engine and in the USA is testing its ‘Search Generative Experience’ with interested members of the public.

In addition to OpenAI’s offerings, a niche service like Midjourney, which generates digital images from natural language descriptions, is available via subscription, starting at $10 per month. The report states that in May 2023 261k (0.6%) UK online adults visited the Midjourney website.

Further, the creation of ChatGPT encouraged other online services to either create their proprietary generative AI tools or seamlessly integrate ChatGPT into their existing offerings. A notable example is Snapchat, which incorporated ChatGPT into its services. Snapchat’s Snapchat My AI is one of the most widely used generative AI services among children and teens.

Three in five of Ofcom’s respondents, ages 7 to 17, use generative AI tools, with Snapchat My AI being the most accessible tool. Usage patterns differ by age, with teenagers (79%) embracing generative AI more than those ages 7-12 (40%). Female teens are prominent users of Snapchat My AI at 75%.

Generative AI concerns

Ofcom’s report also identifies concerns about generative AI’s societal impact, with 58% worrying about the technology’s future implications. The younger demographic, aged 16 to 24, is particularly cautious, with two-thirds expressing concern, while 53% of those aged 25 to 34 share similar sentiments.

Generative AI is weaving itself into the fabric of digital experiences, capturing the imagination of users across age groups. OpenAI’s ChatGPT leads the way, engaging millions globally, while other players like Google and emerging niche services contribute to the evolving landscape. As concerns about societal impacts persist, the dynamic relationship between generative AI and user preferences continues to shape the trajectory of this technology.

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