Brands using Microsoft AI to be more productive and imaginative

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When designers at the toy company Mattel were asked recently to come up with a new Hot Wheels model car, they sought inspiration from DALL∙E 2, an AI system developed by OpenAI that creates custom images and art based on what people describe in plainspoken language.

Using the tool, designers can type in a prompt such as, “A scale model of a classic car” and DALL∙E 2 will generate an image of a toy vintage car, perhaps silver in color and with whitewall tires.

As a next step, the designer could erase the top of the car and then type, “Make it a convertible” and DALL∙E 2 will update the image of the car as a convertible. The designer can keep tweaking the design, asking DALL∙E 2 to try it in pink or blue, with the soft-top on, and on and on.

DALL∙E 2 is coming to Microsoft’s Azure OpenAI Service, by invitation, allowing select Azure AI customers to generate custom images using text or images, the company announced today at Microsoft Ignite, a conference for developers and IT professionals.

The availability of DALL∙E 2 through Azure OpenAI Service provides customers such as Mattel cloud AI infrastructure that blends the cutting-edge innovation of text-to-image generation with the compliance, responsible AI guardrails and certifications that Azure offers, Microsoft says.

The Mattel designers were able to generate dozens of images, each iteration sparking and refining ideas that could help design a final fleshed-out rendering of a new Hot Wheels model car.

“It’s about going, ‘Oh, I didn’t think about that!’” said Carrie Buse, director of product design at Mattel Future Lab in El Segundo, California. She sees the AI technology as a tool to help designers generate more ideas. “Ultimately, quality is the most important thing,” she noted. “But sometimes quantity can help you find the quality.”

Microsoft is also integrating DALL∙E 2 into its consumer apps and services starting with the newly announced Microsoft Designer app, and it will soon be integrated into Image Creator in Microsoft Bing.

The rollout of DALL∙E 2 across Microsoft products and services reflects how the company’s investment in AI research is infusing AI into everything it builds, produces and delivers to help everyone boost productivity and innovation.

The trend is the result of nonlinear breakthroughs in AI capabilities achieved by bringing more compute to more data to train richer and more powerful models, according to Eric Boyd, Microsoft corporate vice president for AI Platform.

“The power of the models has crossed this threshold of quality and now they’re useful in more applications,” he said. “The other trend that we’re seeing is all the product developers are thinking through and understanding the ways that they can use AI in their products for both ease of use as well as saying, ‘Oh, I can make my product work better if I use AI.’”

DALL∙E 2 was trained on a supercomputer hosted in Azure that Microsoft built exclusively for OpenAI. The same Azure supercomputer was also used to train OpenAI’s GPT-3 natural language models and Codex, the model that powers GitHub Copilot and certain features in Microsoft Power Apps that run on Azure OpenAI Service. Azure also makes it possible for these AI tools to rapidly generate image, text or code suggestions for a person to review and consider using.

The addition of DALL∙E 2 builds on Microsoft and OpenAI’s ongoing partnership and expands the breadth of use cases within Azure OpenAI Service, the newest in the Azure Cognitive Services family currently in preview, which offers the security, reliability, compliance, data privacy and other enterprise-grade capabilities built into Microsoft Azure.

Other AI technologies developed by Microsoft and available through Azure Cognitive Services such as language translation, speech transcription, optical character recognition and document summarization are showing up in products and services such as Microsoft Teams, Microsoft Power Platform and Microsoft 365.

“Over the last 18 months, we’ve seen this transition in technology from proving that you can do things with AI to mapping it to actual scenarios and processes where it’s useful to the end user,” said Charles Lamanna, Microsoft corporate vice president of business applications and platform. “It’s the productization of these very large language models.”

PHOTO: Mattel toy designers are investigating how to use images generated by DALL∙E 2 in Azure OpenAI Service to help inspire new Hot Wheels designs.Microsoft

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