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Gradient raises $10M to let companies deploy and fine-tune multiple LLMs

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Gradient, a startup that allows developers to build and customize AI apps in the cloud using large language models (LLMs), today emerged from stealth with $10 million in funding led by Wing VC with participation from Mango Capital, Tokyo Black, The New Normal Fund, Secure Octane and Global Founders Capital.

Chris Change, Gradient’s CEO, co-founded the company alongside Mark Huang and Forrest Moret several months ago while working on AI products at Big Tech firms including Netflix, Splunk, and Google. The trio came to the realization that LLMs like OpenAI’s GPT-4 could be transformative for the enterprise, but believed that getting the most out of LLMs would require creating a reliable way to add private, proprietary data to them.

“Traditionally, teams have focused on improving a single, generalist model — and existing solutions support this model,” Chang told TechCrunch via email. “This is largely because it was too complex to manage multi-model systems. However, relying on a single model is suboptimal because there’s an inevitable tradeoff in task-specific performance.”

Chang, Huang and Moret designed Gradient, then, to make it easier for teams to deploy “specialized” and fine-tuned LLMs at scale. The platform runs in the cloud, allowing an organization to develop and integrate as many as “thousands” of LLMs into a single system, Chang says.

Gradient customers don’t have to train LLMs from scratch. The platform hosts a number of open source LLMs including Meta’s Llama 2, which users can fine-tune to their needs. Gradient also offers models aimed at particular use cases (like data reconciliation, context-gathering and paperwork processing) and industries (like finance and law).

Gradient can host and serve models through an API a la Hugging Face, CoreWeave and other AI infrastructure providers. Or it can deploy AI systems in an organization’s’ public cloud environment, whether Google Cloud Platform, Azure or AWS.

In either case, customers maintain “full ownership” and control over their data and trained models, Chang says.

“The barriers to development are far too high for AI today,” he added. “Building high-performance, custom AI is inaccessible due to the high complexity and cost of setting up the necessary infrastructure and developing new models. We’ve seen that the vast majority of businesses understand the value AI can bring to their business, but struggle to realize the value due to the complexity of adoption. Our platform radically simplifies harnessing AI for a business, which is a tremendous value-add.”

Now, you might ask — like this reporter did — what sets Gradient apart from the other startups engineering tools to pair LLMs with in-house data? And what about the many other companies already customizing LLMs for enterprise clients as a service? It’s a reasonable question.

Take a look at Reka, for example, which recently emerged from stealth to work with companies to build custom-tailored LLM-powered apps. Writer lets customers fine-tune LLMs on their own content and style guides. Contextual AI, Fixie and LlamaIndex, which recently emerged from stealth, are developing tools to allow companies to add their own data to existing LLMs. And Cohere trains LLMs to customers’ specifications.

They’re not the only ones. OpenAI offers a range of model fine-tuning tools, as do incumbents like Google (via Vertex AI), Amazon (via Bedrock) and Microsoft (via the Azure OpenAI Service).

Chang makes that case that Gradient is one of the few platforms that lets companies “productionize” multiple models at once. And, he asserts, it’s affordable — the platform is priced on-demand such that users only pay for the infrastructure they use. (Larger customers have the option of paying for dedicated capacity.)

But even if Gradient isn’t drastically different from its rivals in the LLM dev space, it stands to benefit — and is benefiting — from the massive influx in interest around generative AI, including LLMs. Nearly a fifth of total global VC funding this year has come from the AI sector alone, according to Crunchbase. And PitchBook expects the generative AI market to reach $42.6 billion in 2023.

“Gradient makes it much easier to develop complex AI systems that leverage many ‘expert LLMs,’” he said. “This approach ensures the AI system consistently achieves the highest performance for each task, all in a single platform … Our platform is designed to make it extremely easy for teams to deploy specialized LLMs, purpose-built for their specific problems, more effectively.”

Gradient claims to be working with around 20 enterprise customers at the moment with “thousands” of users combined. Its near-term goal is scaling the cloud backend and growing its team from 17 full-time employees to 25 by the end of the year.

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Dinosaur Fossil Sold For ₹373 Crore, Highest Ever Price At New York Auction

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The largest known stegosaurus skeleton has been sold at Sotheby’s auction in New York on Wednesday for an astounding $44.6 million (approximately Rs 373 crore). This sale sets a new record for the highest price ever paid for a dinosaur skeleton at auction.

The skeleton named Apex has been bought by an anonymous buyer who stated, “Apex was born in America and is going to stay in America,” The Guardian reported.

The Stegosaurus fossil. Image: Sotheby’s

Apex, estimated to be around 150 million years old, is considered “among the most complete skeletons ever found.” The dinosaur remains stand 11 feet tall and stretches 27 feet in length, comprising 254 fossil bone elements out of an estimated total of 319.

This sale surpasses the previous record of $31.8 million, set in 2020 for a Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton known as “Stan.” Sotheby’s initially estimated Apex would sell for between $4 million and $6 million, but the final bid far exceeded expectations.

One notable aspect of Apex is the absence of combat-related injuries or signs of postmortem scavenging, indicating that the skeleton remained largely undisturbed until its discovery. The bones were exceptionally well-preserved in hard sandstone, which prevented them from becoming distorted over millions of years.

Apex was the centerpiece of Sotheby’s natural history auction, which also featured other fascinating items such as meteorites and paleolithic tools. The auction achieved a total of $45.8 million, making it the highest-grossing natural history auction in history, per The Guardian.

ALSO SEE: Discovery Alert: Africa’s Oldest Dinosaur Found In Northern Zimbabwe



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Melting Polar Ice Caps Are Making The Days Longer, New Study Finds

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A new research from ETH Zurich indicates that climate change is significantly influencing Earth’s rotation and axis. As polar ice melts and water redistributes towards the equator, the planet’s mass distribution is altered, causing a deceleration in Earth’s rotation and resulting in slightly longer days.

Historically, the primary cause of the gradual lengthening of Earth’s days has been the moon’s tidal friction. However, the researchers discovered that if greenhouse gas emissions persist at their current rate, the impact of climate change could soon surpass the moon’s influence.

The study, led by Professor Benedikt Soja and published in Nature Geoscience and PNAS, draws a parallel between this phenomenon and a figure skater extending their arms to slow their spin. When mass moves away from Earth’s axis, it increases inertia, thus slowing down rotation.

“Human activities are having a more profound effect on our planet than we realize,” Soja stated.

Visual representation of the Artic and the Antarctic. Image: NASA

Additionally, the melting ice sheets are causing shifts in Earth’s rotational axis. By combining physical laws with artificial intelligence, the research team created models to show how interactions within Earth’s core, mantle, and surface influence the axis’s movement.

ALSO SEE: What Is ISRO’s Mission TRISHNA? Here’s All About The Revolutionary Climate Change Monitor

Lead author Mostafa Kiani Shahvandi highlighted that their work provides a comprehensive explanation for long-period polar motion. Their model accurately reconstructed pole movements since 1900 offering predictions for future changes.

“Ongoing climate change could be affecting processes deep inside the Earth and have a greater reach than previously assumed,” Shahvandi said. Although, there shouldn’t be a cause for concern as the changes are very unlikely to pose a risk.

While these changes may seem insignificant in daily life, they hold considerable importance for space navigation. Small deviations in Earth’s rotation can lead to substantial errors over vast distances. Soja stressed that understanding and accounting for these shifts is essential for precise planetary landings.

“We humans have a greater impact on our planet than we realise and this naturally places great responsibility on us for the future of our planet,” the expert said.

ALSO SEE: Scientists Just Spotted Unnerving Melting Beneath The ‘Doomsday Glacier’

(Image: NASA)





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SpaceX Shares Glimpse Of Spacecraft That Will Crash The International Space Station

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SpaceX has been assigned the job to crash the International Space Station (ISS) into the Pacific Ocean in 2030. To get it done, the former will be designing a ‘deorbit vehicle’ that will tug the orbital lab down from its orbit. SpaceX has now shared an illustration of what the said spacecraft will look like.

The picture features the spacecraft which has a similar build like SpaceX’s trademark Dragon capsule. It also has massive solar panels to power the components of the vehicle. According to SpaceX, it will be four times more powerful and have six times the propellant of today’s Dragon spaceceraft.

In a statement in June, NASA said it has awarded the company a contract worth $843 million (excluding launch costs) to design and build the vehicle. The agency plans to retire the station by 2030.

Crashing the ISS will be a lengthy process

During a press conference on July 17, NASA officials shared details about the deorbiting of the space station which will begin when the new spacecraft docks at one of its ports. According to Dana Weigel, ISS program manager, the vehicle will pull the station down 12 to 18 months after it drifts down from its normal orbit.

The official said that astronauts will occupy the station until six months before the station’s reentry and will vacate it after the ISS reaches about 200 kilometres in orbit. It currently circles the Earth at over 400 kilometres.

Sarah Walker, director of Dragon mission management at SpaceX, revealed the key features of the deorbit vehicle. The spacecraft will have an enhanced trunk section that will have additional propulsion tanks along with engines, avionics and power generation purposes, Space.com reported.

ALSO SEE: Astronaut Gives Tour Of The International Space Station In Never Seen Before Video; Watch

The station is currently being managed by five space agencies from the US, Russia, Canada, Japan and Europe. Its replacement will be filled by commercial habitats that will ensure human presence in the low-Earth orbit and continued experiments in microgravity.

Many US companies like Blue Origin and Sierra Space are together building Orbital Reef and Axiom Space is planning to launch the first module of its Axiom Station later this decade. Currently, China is the only country to have its own space station –Tiangong – and Russia is also working toward developing one for itself.

Steve Stich, the manager of the commercial crew program at NASA’s Johnson Space Center, reportedly said earlier this year that the ISS wil be “out of the way” only if the commercial ones are successful.

ALSO SEE: SpaceX To Launch Historic Private Mission Polaris Dawn On July 31





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