Walmart VP confirms retailer is building on GPT-4, says generative AI is “as big a shift as mobile.”

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Walmart, the world’s largest retailer, is developing its conversational AI capabilities using OpenAI’s GPT-4, according to Desiree Gosby, vice president of emerging technologies at Walmart Global Tech.

In an interview with VentureBeat, Gosby said that generative AI like GPT-4 “will be as big a shift as mobile in terms of how our customers expect to interact with us.”

Given Walmart’s dominance, it’s no surprise that the retailer would rely on the world’s most talked-about major language model. Last year, VentureBeat reported that AI is embedded everywhere at the Bentonville, Arkansas-based company, from supply chain management and virtual shopping to search.

Now, Walmart is using GPT-4 to take natural language understanding further, at scale, than ever before. That includes boosting existing offers like Text to Shop, which lets customers add Walmart products to their cart by texting or saying the items they need.


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“We’ve had a platform that has allowed teams at Walmart to build conversational experiences for about five years,” Gosby told VentureBeat. “We’re focusing on building a natural language understanding capability that’s specific to retail.”

Big language models are the foundation, he explained, and then Walmart builds its models on top of that, using its knowledge of products and how customers want to interact.

Walmart has nearly two dozen conversational AI experiences

The company now has nearly two dozen different experiences using the platform for natural language understanding capabilities, including a chatbot that Walmart’s million associates collaborate with for customer care.

Major language models like GPT-3 and GPT-4 are starting to allow Walmart to move away from task-based chatbots (i.e. adding an item to an online shopping cart) to problem-based chatbots that are weak give you the expression you need. natural language.

Walmart’s north star when it comes to conversational AI, Gosby said, would be if Walmart could use experiences or models like ChatGPT to predict what customers are looking for.

Gosby acknowledged that the idea is “borderline creepy,” so Walmart will have to figure out how to implement the idea safely and responsibly. The idea is that “if we know your son is going to camp this summer and that he has allergies, we can add these allergy medications to your cart,” she said. “Or here are the things we would recommend to prepare him for camp.”

Walmart uses other major language models besides GPT-4

However, he notes that Walmart is not only using GPT-4, but also other major language models (Walmart’s efforts began, Gosby said, using Google’s BERT models, which were released in 2018). “The universe is changing so quickly that we don’t want to lock ourselves in,” he said.

But ChatGPT’s biggest innovation and change was the experience it provided to consumers, he explained. That is, when you ask a question, you get back a generated answer that looks like a conversation.

“Having that foundation to build on is very exciting, it means putting those tools in the hands of the teams that are building those experiences,” he said. “I don’t think it’s going to be a difficult leap for our customers once they start seeing what’s possible.”

Generative AI will open up a number of possibilities

Generative AI will generally open up a range of opportunities, Gosby added, both from providing new or improved customer experiences to improving internal processes or productivity.

“Can we use things like generative artificial intelligence for images to create 3D versions of that product, or at least get us part of the way and remove some of the manual process?” He explained, adding that Walmart has to be very careful about matters involving copyrighted data. “But the advantage is that Walmart has a lot of data that we can use to train and get us to a place where we can start using these models.”

And the multimodal potential of generative AI, for both text and images, is a tantalizing prospect, Gosby added. “What’s exciting to me is how we can use all these things together to create a truly transformative experience,” he said. “It’s a combination of these different seasons.”

Asked if Walmart would build a ChatGPT app, Gosby said the company is “certainly not taking anything off the table.” But it’s about being able to have the right kinds of experiences and exercising the abilities in the right way, he added.

“At the end of the day, we’re going to let our customers direct us to what they want,” he said. “If it benefits them, good for Walmart.”

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