AI EDUCATION: What Is Perplexity?

613
Image from Perplexity Website

Each week we find a new topic for our readers to learn about in our AI Education column. 

This week we were inspired by a conversation with our social engagement intern, Nicole Nieves, to delve into the use of AI in search.  And btw, she noted that she can’t get enough of AI, but feels there is so much information out there, that’s it’s hard to know where to begin, but she wants to absorb as much as she can.  I think she’s quite representative of millennials who are very digitally proficient and open to new digital paradigms, like generative AI.

She mentioned that Google now has a widget for using AI when you do a traditional search, but I couldn’t find it.  So in SEARCHING for that widget (isn’t that ironic), I came across a story from the New York Times on Perplexity.

Now just like we assume that all celebrities in Hollywood know each other (and they don’t), you might assume that I know firsthand about ALL the major consumer-facing AI out there…..but I don’t.  That’s because there’s a sh*tload of them.  I’ve certainly heard of Perplexity, and in fact we featured them in a recent Top 5 VC Deals in AI column recently, but never dug into it – until we researched the company for this post.  And perhaps we should have before now, because two of the investors in their recent April 2024 $63M funding round were Nvidia an and Jeff Bezos. OH.

And it turns out the New York Times recently pubished a story claiming the firm could replace Google. OH…again.  And btw, our editorial ingenue Chris Robbins has made the same claim as well – not only about search in general falling by the wayside with generative AI, but about much of traditional media in general.

So we thought it was worth a deep dive for our readers. Below is what ChatGPT (which links to Perplexity, along with other LLMs) had to say about the firm.  And btw, here’s the links to the NYT story referenced above as well, in case you are a paid subscriber and can access it (it’s behind a paywall):

Can This A.I.-Powered Search Engine Replace Google? It Has for Me.

And lastly, on 6/28, our sister media brand The Daily AI, published a snippet on Perplexity – turns out Amazon is a little ticked at them…..what could this  mean for the firm’s future?  And why is AMAZON doing this investigation after the firm’s founder, Jeff Bezos, just joined in the last venture round for Perplexity?  This is really weird, IMO, and there’s no doubt a back story in there. READ ON…….

Amazon Web Services (AWS)/Perplexity AI

AWS has (reportedly) launched an investigation into web scraping accusations involving Perplexity AI. Complaints have emerged that the AI-powered search engine gained unauthorized access to websites to scrape data.


Perplexity AI: Revolutionizing Search Engines with Advanced Features and Multiple LLM Integration

Perplexity AI is making significant waves in the AI-powered search engine and chatbot market, setting itself apart through a combination of innovative features and functionalities. As artificial intelligence continues to evolve, Perplexity AI emerges as a leader by leveraging multiple large language models (LLMs) and offering a suite of advanced capabilities that cater to both casual users and professionals. Here’s a deep dive into what makes Perplexity AI unique and why it is becoming a go-to platform for reliable and comprehensive information retrieval.

Integration of Multiple LLMs

One of the cornerstone features of Perplexity AI is its integration of multiple LLMs. By utilizing a diverse set of models such as GPT-4, Claude 3, Mistral Large, along with its proprietary models, Perplexity AI can generate more nuanced and accurate responses. This multi-model approach ensures that the platform can cross-reference and validate information, providing users with higher quality answers compared to those from single-model platforms.

Conversational Search Engine

Moving beyond the traditional search engine format that delivers a list of links, Perplexity AI offers a conversational search experience. It interprets user queries through advanced natural language processing techniques and provides direct answers in a conversational tone. This format includes summarized responses with inline citations, enabling users to easily verify information and explore deeper details, enhancing the overall user experience.

Freemium Model with Advanced Features

Perplexity AI operates on a freemium model, making it accessible to a broad audience while also offering advanced features for paying users. The free version incorporates Anthropic’s Claude 3 Haiku model and Perplexity’s standalone LLM, delivering robust performance for general use. However, Perplexity Pro, the paid tier, unlocks access to top-tier models like GPT-4 and introduces additional functionalities such as image generation, file uploads, and API access for developers. This tiered approach allows users to choose the level of service that best fits their needs.

Follow-Up Questions and Contextual Understanding

A standout feature of Perplexity AI is its ability to handle follow-up questions within the same context. This capability significantly enhances the depth and relevance of the information provided, making it particularly useful for in-depth research and complex queries. Users can continue a line of inquiry seamlessly, receiving more tailored and precise information as the conversation progresses.

Commitment to Source Citations

In an era where misinformation can spread rapidly, Perplexity AI distinguishes itself with a strong commitment to transparency and reliability. Each response generated by the platform includes citations to the original sources of information. This practice not only builds trust with users but also enables them to verify and explore the data further, ensuring a high level of credibility and accuracy in the information presented.

Specialized Search Modes

Perplexity AI also offers specialized search modes that cater to specific user needs. The ‘Focus’ mode allows users to restrict their searches to particular platforms such as Reddit, YouTube, or WolframAlpha, ensuring more relevant results. Additionally, the ‘Writing’ mode disables internet access for the LLM, allowing it to generate content without external data, which is ideal for creative and original writing tasks.

Enterprise and Pro Features

Recognizing the needs of business users, Perplexity AI launched an enterprise version in April 2024. This version includes advanced functionalities tailored for business applications, such as enhanced data analysis and integration capabilities. These enterprise features make Perplexity AI a valuable tool for organizations seeking to leverage AI for more sophisticated and efficient information processing and decision-making.

Addressing Criticisms and Challenges

Despite its many advantages, Perplexity AI has faced some criticisms and challenges. Issues such as not respecting the robots.txt standard, which allows websites to block web crawlers, have been noted. Additionally, like all AI systems, it occasionally generates questionable information due to the inherent limitations of the LLMs it uses. However, the company continues to work on mitigating these issues, improving its models, and refining its processes to enhance overall performance and reliability.

Conclusion

Perplexity AI stands out in the crowded field of AI-powered search engines and chatbots by integrating multiple LLMs, providing direct and conversational answers with comprehensive citations, and offering a freemium model that scales with user needs. Its advanced features, including specialized search modes and enterprise capabilities, make it a versatile and powerful tool for a wide range of users. As AI technology continues to advance, Perplexity AI is well-positioned to remain at the forefront, delivering reliable and in-depth information for both casual and professional use.


ChatGPT and DWN