Next Up After The AI Digital Assistant, The “AI Colleague”

Karan Kamble

Jun 18, 2024, 06:27 PM | Updated 06:27 PM IST

Jace AI can make an Airbnb reservation with a simple prompt.
Jace AI can make an Airbnb reservation with a simple prompt.
  • Zeta Labs' Jace, an AI that navigates the web with simple prompts, represents the next stage in the evolution of AI chatbots.
  • Most of us now pick the brains of one or more artificial intelligence (AI) chatbots to satisfy our curiosities. For me, chit-chats with conversational AI are a good way to acquire new knowledge and improve my work.

    But as we get increasingly familiar with AI assistants, the next stage in the evolution is here: AI colleagues.

    Zeta Labs — composed of engineers from leading technology companies like Meta AI, Google, Amazon, and Tesla — has launched “Jace,” which is more like an AI employee or colleague in its abilities than an AI chatbot.

    According to Zeta, Jace is able to “handle longer-running tasks” and take “actions in the digital world.” It is able to take action because of its training in the use of a browser to interact with websites just like any of us would.

    “This allows it to handle real-world tasks like researching and booking flights, handling a hiring process, or even setting up a company,” Zeta said in an X post that carried a promotional video showcasing Jace’s abilities.

    In one use case, Jace is able to make an Airbnb homestay reservation in a city for particular dates in response to a single instruction, though, of course, the user has to feed in any additional details necessary for Jace to get the job done.

    The generative AI model powering Jace is Zeta’s Autonomous Web Agent-1, or AWA-1, foundation model. With AWA-1, Jace uses the browser to carry out various steps to achieve a task.

    So, in the particular case of making an Airbnb reservation, the AI agent navigates to the Airbnb website via Google search, fills in all the details, as provided by the user, on the Airbnb website, and runs a search.

    “The development of our AWA-1 model allows JACE the ability to control a browser, essentially giving the AI assistant the digital equivalent of arms and legs,” Zeta Labs co-founder Peter Albert, who was part of the core team behind Meta Llama 2 large language model (LLM), has said. “You can’t ask any current chatbot on the market to book a trip, pay an invoice or set up a job post. With JACE, you can.” 

    Jace “can take on entire roles,” Zeta co-founder Fryderyk Wiatrowski said in the promo video. “Imagine a recruiter who never sleeps. Jace finds candidates, schedules interviews, and manages the hiring process effortlessly.” This use case is part of Jace’s ability to manage emails. (Watch the demo here).

    In a more complicated task, the AI employee is able to create a company on its own! Apparently, it is able to register a business from scratch, find the first client, and even make its first revenue, all within two weeks. Zeta used Jace to start a maths tutoring company. (Watch the demo here.)

    Using AWA-1, Jace posted an 89 per cent task completion success rate on an internal benchmark test, as per Zeta. When it instead used GPT-4o and an open-source web agent using GPT-4o, the AI posted much lower success rates of 68 per cent and 25 per cent, respectively.

    “Jace still has its limitations. It can struggle with complicated tasks. And the kind of browsing speed is somewhat slow. We are working very hard to make it faster and more reliable,” Wiatrowski said.

    Zeta has opened up a beta waitlist for people to join.

    Alongside the launch of Jace, Zeta announced the raising of its $2.9 million pre-seed round. The startup plans to use the funding to expand its engineering team — currently made up of only nine engineers and one operations expert — to host training models, and improve Jace, particularly its speed and reliability. 

    Zeta Labs was founded in August 2023. Its mission is to create technological innovation that helps people cut through distractions and engage with what truly matters.

    Building autonomous agents capable of performing browser-based tasks efficiently is only the beginning for this AI research and product lab. It plans to build on these agents to develop “technology designed to liberate humans from unnecessary work, streamline tasks, and enhance our experience.”

    Karan Kamble writes on science and technology. He occasionally wears the hat of a video anchor for Swarajya's online video programmes.

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