What is ChatGPT? How to Use It (Explained)

by Chris Von Wilpert, BBusMan • Last updated December 5, 2023

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What is ChatGPT?

ChatGPT is an AI language model designed to understand and generate text like a human. It's like having a genius friend who can chat, answer questions, generate images, write code, or help with tasks via chat. ChatGPT makes interacting with AI more natural and enjoyable, with advanced technology called GPT (Generative Pre-trained Transformer). Whether you're looking for help, learning something new, or just want your funny bone tickled, ChatGPT is ready to work for you on demand.

ChatGPT fast facts

  • ChatGPT mimics human conversation and writing, powered by OpenAI's advanced AI.

  • It's available both via web and as mobile apps, with an integrated voice assistant on iOS and Android devices.

  • It’s safe for general use, but kids might run across unsuitable content.

  • Specialized AI models excel over ChatGPT in specific areas like medicine and law, for example.

  • Google Bard competes with ChatGPT by integrating AI chat with Google's vast online resources and data.

The recognizable logo of ChatGPT, representing the intersection of conversational AI and user interaction. Photograph: TBIG Managed Solutions.

What does GPT stand for?

GPT stands for "Generative Pre-trained Transformer." Let's break it down. 

"Generative" means it creates text, like writing a blog post or a social media update. 

The "Pre-trained" part means it's been taught a lot before we even got access to it. It's like going to school before getting a job. It gets this training from a huge mix of things people have written, so it knows a lot about how humans talk and write.

The "Transformer" bit is about how it understands and creates language. Think of it as the brains behind GPT. It's a smart way to handle language like humans do. This is why GPT can chat or write in an incredibly realistic way.

GPT has gotten a lot of attention. Big names in tech like Elon Musk and AI experts like Ilya Sutskever have helped develop it and alerted us about the big changes it’ll bring to our lives. 

ChatGPT stands out as a prime example of GPT's capabilities. It uses the sophisticated transformer architecture to interact conversationally, showcasing how these advanced models can understand and generate human language with impressive accuracy.

What is ChatGPT used for?

ChatGPT is a versatile, user-friendly tool used for a variety of purposes. Firstly, it's widely used for conversation and engagement. Whether it's answering questions, providing explanations, or just casually chatting, ChatGPT excels in making AI-generated conversations feel natural and human-like. 

Another major use is content creation. ChatGPT can generate written content like blog posts, social media updates, or even creative writing. This is particularly useful for marketers, content creators, and writers who need to generate a wide range of text efficiently. ChatGPT's ability to understand context and produce coherent, relevant text makes it a powerful tool for generating high-quality content.

ChatGPT serves as a platform for experimenting with and understanding AI capabilities, particularly in the field of natural language processing. Developers, researchers, and AI enthusiasts use it to explore the potentials and limitations of language models. It's a practical example of how advanced models and machine learning can be applied, helping us understand areas like human-AI interaction, algorithmic content generation, and the ethical implications of AI in society.

Is ChatGPT an app or website?

ChatGPT is available in two main forms: as a web service and as a mobile app. As a web service, it can be accessed through a browser at chat.openai.com, where users can interact with the AI-powered conversational agent directly from their web browser on any device, including PCs and Macs. 

For mobile users, ChatGPT also exists as an app. OpenAI has launched an app for iOS, available in the App Store, and there's an Android version as well. Both apps integrate additional features on top of the web versions — like Whisper, an open-source speech-recognition system that works as a voice assistant (similar to Siri). It basically lets you speak to ChatGPT.

An user interacting with ChatGPT on a smartphone, showing the accessibility of ChatGPT on mobile devices. Photograph: Kathy Hirsh-Pasek and Elias Blinkoff via Brookings.

How can I access ChatGPT?

ChatGPT is quite user-friendly and can be accessed through either a web browser or a mobile app, depending on your device and preferences. 

For web browsers, you just have to navigate to ChatGPT’s website at chat.openai.com. If you're a new user, you'll need to sign up for an OpenAI account, a simple process that requires an email address and a password. In some cases, additional verification like phone number verification may be required. Once signed up and logged in, you'll be directed to ChatGPT’s interface where you can begin interacting by typing your questions or prompts.

ChatGPT offers dedicated apps for both iOS and Android devices. iPhone users can find the ChatGPT app in the Apple App Store, while Android users can download it from the Google Play Store. The process involves searching for the ChatGPT app, downloading, and installing it on your mobile device. After installation, open the app and log in using your OpenAI account. If you don't already have one, the app will guide you through creating an account. Once you're logged in, the app provides a straightforward interface to start engaging with ChatGPT by inputting your queries or prompts.

How do I access ChatGPT on my iPhone?

The most straightforward method to access ChatGPT on your phone is by downloading the ChatGPT app. Once installed, you tap the app icon on your phone to launch it. This leads you to its user-friendly interface, where you can type in your queries or prompts. Whether you're seeking information, advice, or just a casual chat, ChatGPT will make it feel like you're texting with a friend.

For an experience that feels more like a conversation, ChatGPT integrates Whisper, OpenAI's speech recognition technology, which is ChatGPT’s Siri alternative. Whisper allows you to speak your queries instead of typing them. It's an ideal feature for hands-free use or when you prefer talking over typing. The app listens, processes your speech, and then the GPT model responds in a human-like voice.

Setting up iOS Shortcuts to OpenAI's GPT API is a great option to access ChatGPT on the iPhone. This method involves creating a shortcut on your iPhone that sends your text or voice input directly to the GPT API and receives a response. This setup requires a bit more technical know-how, as you'll need to integrate the API within the iOS Shortcuts app. However, once set up, it allows for a highly personalized and seamless way to interact with ChatGPT, right from your iPhone's home screen or via Siri commands. This method brings the power of ChatGPT into your daily iPhone usage, integrating it with other tasks and workflows you might have.

How to use ChatGPT in daily life?

ChatGPT can be a quick and handy reference for information. Whether it’s understanding a complex concept, getting the summary of a news article, or seeking historical facts, ChatGPT can provide concise and informative responses. For students or lifelong learners, it can help in understanding various subjects or offering different perspectives on a topic. Think of it as a pocket-sized tutor or fact-checker in your daily life.

For those involved in writing or content creation, ChatGPT can be a valuable assistant. It can help brainstorm ideas, suggest outlines for articles or blog posts, or even help with creative writing like poetry or short stories. Social media influencers can also use it to generate catchy captions, edit posts, or come up with fresh content ideas. 

ChatGPT can also assist with daily tasks and boost productivity. It can help draft emails, write texts, or take care of other forms of written communication. For personal organization, it can suggest to-do lists, remind you of important tasks, or anything in-between. If you're learning a new language, practicing conversation with ChatGPT can be beneficial as well — and yes, it can recognize and respond to you right away in different languages — a feature even Google Translate fails to provide. Additionally, it can serve as a brainstorming partner for project planning, buying decisions, or decision-making by providing suggestions or playing devil’s advocate.

An example of an interaction with ChatGPT, highlighting the background processes to produce human-like responses. Photograph: Ultimate.

Who owns ChatGPT?

OpenAI is the company behind ChatGPT. They started up in 2015 with some big names in tech, like Elon Musk and Sam Altman, pitching in. Although Elon Musk helped kick things off, he's not actively running the show —  he stepped back in 2018 but still supports their work. Sam Altman, who used to lead Y Combinator (a big deal in the startup world), is the main guy in charge as CEO.

Originally, OpenAI began as a non-profit, focusing on making sure AI development is kept safe and helpful. They later added a for-profit side to get more funding and keep up with their ambitious projects. ChatGPT is one of their coolest creations, showing off what they can do in AI, especially in making machines chat like humans.

Is ChatGPT available for free?

Yes, ChatGPT is available for free, which is one of the reasons it's so popular. You can use it without paying anything, either on the website or through the app. 

OpenAI, the company behind ChatGPT, also offers a premium version called ChatGPT Plus. This paid version gives some extra perks like faster response times, priority access during high-demand periods, and access to the latest updates and features. It's like a VIP pass for those who want more from ChatGPT.

So, while the basic version of ChatGPT is free and pretty handy for most things, if you find yourself needing more, ChatGPT Plus is available for a fair $20/month. For casual usage, questions, or just messing around, the free version’s got you covered.

The ChatGPT Plus logo displayed with a vibrant design — the enhanced, VIP version of ChatGPT. Photograph: ChatOnAI.

Is ChatGPT safe to use?

ChatGPT is generally safe to use, but like any technology, it comes with its own set of considerations. Technically, it's designed to be secure and to protect your data. Features like data encryption and secure hosting safeguard user interactions. When used on web browsers and smartphones, security measures like sandboxing prevent ChatGPT from accessing other parts of your device. This means that while using ChatGPT, the risks of it causing direct harm to your computer or phone are slim to none.

While ChatGPT is technically safe, supervision is advisable when it's being used by kids or teens. Users of these ages could be exposed to content that might not be appropriate for them. This concern stems from the fact that, while ChatGPT aims to provide accurate and harmless responses, the vast and varied nature of its training data means it might occasionally generate responses that may not be suitable for younger audiences. This could include complex or sensitive topics, or in rare cases, misleading or incorrect information.

Additionally, the interaction with an AI model like ChatGPT might lack the nuanced understanding and guidance that a human, particularly an adult or educator, can provide. Youngsters might not have developed the critical thinking skills to discern between accurate information and potential misinformation. There's also the aspect of digital literacy and online safety — without proper guidance, young users might inadvertently share personal information or engage in conversations that aren't safe or appropriate.

What is better than ChatGPT?

For tasks requiring highly specialized knowledge or skills, there are AI models tailored to specific domains. For instance, AI systems designed for medical diagnostics, legal research, or complex financial analysis might outperform ChatGPT in those specific areas. These models are trained with specialized datasets, making them more adept at handling industry-specific queries.

There are AI tools designed for different functionalities that might be more appropriate for certain tasks. For example, AI-based image generation tools like DALL-E are better suited for visual creativity and design tasks. Similarly, AI systems focused on data analysis and pattern recognition might be more effective for specific research or business intelligence purposes.

As far as similar alternatives to ChatGPT, many argue that Google Bard offers a comparable, if not superior, experience in certain aspects. Google Bard, developed by Google, is another advanced AI chatbot that leverages a language model, similar to ChatGPT, with the advantage of having real-time access to Google’s vast search engine data and resources.

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