Character.AI, the startup generative AI tool that allows users to develop and chat with AI-generated versions of famous people, dead or alive, has drawn the interest of Google as a possible investment target.
Reuters is reporting that Alphabet, the parent company of Google, is currently in talks to invest hundreds of millions of dollars in the startup.
In May of 2023, Character.AI and Google first entered into a partnership where Character.AI would utilize Google Cloud’s Tensor Processing Units (TPUs) as the backbone with which to train their AI model.
Character.AI was founded by Noam Shazeer and Daniel de Freitas, two of Google’s foremost AI experts who left the company in 2021 to form a new company.
The beta version of Character.AI was launched in September of 2022 but could have been available years earlier according to the founders.
According to Shazeer, Google was reluctant to release a generative AI tool because of fears of what could go wrong.
Shazeer would know, as he was the lead author of the influential Google Transformer paper that is cited by many as groundbreaking research around generative AI.
Shazeer and de Freitas began working on a generative AI tool as a Google 20% project, where Google employees are allowed to spend 20% of their time on passion projects outside their main job.
This developed into a tool called LaMDA which made headlines when a Google engineer named Blake Lemoine claimed the tool was sentient.
Google shut the project down and Shazeer and de Freitas went off to found Character.AI.
Now, Google is interested again after having missed the boat the first time around and is reportedly willing to pay hundreds of millions to partner up.