Merlin AI Launches First ChatGPT iOS and Android Mobile App (Updated)
NB: Updated following Voicebot’s email interview with Dogtown Media CEO Marc Fischer.
Mobile app developer Dogtown Media has introduced what it claims is the first iOS and Android app “powered by ChatGPT,” OpenAI’s enormously popular generative AI chatbot. The free Merlin AI app says it offers a way to interact with the ChatGPT AI, without navigating to the website. However, OpenAI hasn’t yet offered an API for ChatGPT. Unless OpenAI gave Dogtown Media special access to an otherwise unavailable API, the app acts as a messenger between the user and ChatGPT’s online home, or the app uses GPT-3 or GPT-3.5 API and the marketing is just capitalizing on ChatGPT’s popularity. We’ve reached out to Dogtown for more information.
Update: Dogtown Media CEO Marc Fischer clarified in an email interview with Voicebot that the company used OpenAI’s GPT-3.5 API. “The app is able to instantaneously run complex queries and return the highest caliber results that the AI tech stack can provide.” GPT-3.5 is the same baseline model as ChatGPT, hence the marketing copy calling it the first mobile app for ChatGPT.
At first glance, the Merlin AI app is a very straight recreation of ChatGPT with a simple blank area to type requests. One notable difference is that the response comes all at once in a block rather than simulating a very fast typer the way ChatGPT performs on the website. The conversational element is there, too as the AI responds in the context of the ongoing discussion, and the entire conversation is visible in the app. Dogtown envisions Merlin AI’s mobile ChatGPT as a potential replacement for Google search, using conversation instead of links to other pages with answers.
“To be honest, ChatGPT is the best-of-breed AI model and miles ahead of everything else on the market,” Fischer told Voicebot. That being said, we’re optimistic about what the future holds. In a short amount of time we’ve built a budding relationship with OpenAI’s team, which we’ll expand into exciting new territories into the new year.”
Update: Voicebot founder Bret Kinsella deduced how Merlin works before the company’s confirmation. His analysis of the benefits and potential problems of trying to make a ChatGPT mobile app without an API mirror the reasons behind Merlin’s structure.
“I am not aware of an actual ChatGPT API from OpenAI. More likely, they are using the GPT-3 API that is represented as a chat interface. They may even be using the GPT 3.5, which is the model ChatGPT employs. Jasper AI showed something in similar to this earlier in the week,” Kinsella commented earlier. “The API integration would be the most logical approach but suggests the marketing claims are a little misleading and using the ChatGPT name because it is recognizable.”
If Merlin AI used ChatGPT, it would need to integrate through the website. That would mean sending the user’s input and then scraping the response and reposting it on the app. While that would explain the marketing, it comes with its own potential problems.
“OpenAI positions ChatGPT as a beta that could be changed or removed at any time,” Kinsella said. “You don’t want to have your mobile app suddenly become non-functional because OpenAI changed the access status for ChatGPT. Regardless, I am excited to see this type of app hit the market. It will expose more people to the functional benefits of large language models and has a super user-friendly interface which will reduce adoption friction.”
Merlin AI’s speedy launch just weeks after ChatGPT appeared is remarkable as Dogtown would have needed to develop and then navigate the app through the Android and iOS publishing systems at a brisk clip. Dogtown has previously published more than 250 mobile apps for healthcare, finance, and other industries. That might spark some skepticism on its provenance.
Update: The speediness still applies in terms of the GPT-3.5 model, as Fischer boasted that Merlin debuted just eight days after the initial proposal. There are also plans for expanding and enhancing the app in the future.
“My team at Dogtown Media (the backer of Merlin AI) have been developing mobile apps since the introduction of the Apple App Store and I’m proud to say that this is by far our fastest app launch on record,” he wrote. “The app you see in the App Stores now is only the tip of the iceberg. The Merlin AI team is working around the clock to add advanced functionality and will be scaling up to include ChatGPT-4 capabilities when they’re released next year. Keep an eye out for a flurry of new premium features being added over the coming weeks and months.”