Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with Axios AM/PM. Catch up on what's new and why it matters in just 5 minutes.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Denver news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Des Moines news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Minneapolis-St. Paul news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tampa Bay news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa Bay

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Charlotte news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

An image generated by OpenAI's DALL-E model, from the prompt "an illustration of a baby daikon radish in a tutu walking a dog." Credit: OpenAI

The machine learning company OpenAI is developing models that improve computer vision and can produce original images from a text prompt.

Why it matters: The new models are the latest steps in ongoing efforts to create machine learning systems that exhibit elements of general intelligence, while performing tasks that are actually useful in the real world — without breaking the bank on computing power.

What's happening: OpenAI today is announcing two new systems that attempt to do for images what its landmark GPT-3 model did last year for text generation.

  • DALL-E is a neural network that can "take any text and make an image out of it," says Ilya Sutskever, OpenAI co-founder and chief scientist. That includes concepts it would never have encountered in training, like the drawing of an anthropomorphic daikon radish walking a dog shown above.
  • Flashback: DALL-E operates somewhat similarly to GPT-3, the huge transformer model that can generate original passages of text based on a short prompt.
  • CLIP, the other new neural network, "can take any set of visual categories and instantly create very strong and reliable visually classifiable text descriptions," says Sutskever, improving on existing computer vision techniques with less training and expensive computational power.

What they're saying: "Last year, we were able to make substantial progress on text with GPT-3, but the thing is that the world isn't just built on text," says Sutskever. "This is a step towards the grander goal of building a neural network that can work in both images and text."

How it works: DALL-E — a name OpenAI picked as a portmanteau of the surrealist artist Salvador Dali and the fatally cute Pixar robot WALL-E — is the model that jumps out because it aims to fulfill the Star Trek dream of simply being able to tell a computer, using regular language, what to create.

  • For example: Enter the prompt "a can of soup that has the word 'skynet' on it" and you'll get images like the one below.
Credit: OpenAI
  • "It can take unrelated concepts that are nothing alike and put them together into a functional object," says Aditya Ramesh, the leader of the DALL-E team.
  • CLIP can identify images with comparatively little training, allowing it to caption pictures it encounters.
  • The model's real advantage is its efficiency, which is becoming a bigger issue in the field as the computational cost of training machine learning models only grows.

Yes, but: Like GPT-3, the new models are far from perfect, with DALL-E, in particular, dependent on exactly how the text prompt is phrased if it's to be able to generate a coherent image.

The bottom line: Artificial general intelligence may be getting closer, one doodle at a time.

Go deeper

Ina Fried, author of Login
46 mins ago - Technology

Scoop: Google is investigating the actions of another top AI ethicist

Google CEO Sundar Pichai. Photo by Mateusz Wlodarczyk/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Google is investigating recent actions by Margaret Mitchell, who helps lead the company's ethical AI team, Axios has confirmed.

Why it matters: The probe follows the forced exit of Timnit Gebru, a prominent researcher also on the AI ethics team at Google whose ouster ignited a firestorm among Google employees.

2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Scoop: Joe Biden's COVID-19 bubble

Photo illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The incoming administration is planning extraordinary steps to protect its most prized commodity, Joe Biden, including requiring daily employee COVID tests and N95 masks at all times, according to new guidance sent to some incoming employees Tuesday.

Why it matters: The president-elect is 78 years old and therefore a high risk for the virus and its worst effects, despite having received the vaccine. While President Trump's team was nonchalant about COVID protocols — leading to several super-spreader episodes — the new rules will apply to all White House aides in "high proximity to principals."

Justice Department drops insider trading inquiry against Sen. Richard Burr

Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) walking through the Senate Subway in the U.S. Capitol in December 2020. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Getty Images

The Department of Justice told Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) on Tuesday that it will not move forward with insider trading charges against him.

Why it matters: The decision, first reported by the New York Times, effectively ends the DOJ's investigation into the senator's stock sell-off that occurred after multiple lawmakers were briefed about the coronavirus' potential economic toll. Burr subsequently stepped down as chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee.