As it prepares to start the 2023 fall semester, the University of Michigan has launched a suite of custom tools for working with generative artificial intelligence that emphasize equity, accessibility and privacy.
Information and Technology Services has collaborated with Microsoft to create its new AI Services platform, which launched Aug. 21 and will enable students, faculty and staff at U-M to access and experiment with an innovative selection of tools.
The university initially is launching three AI services — U-M GPT, U-M Maizey and U-M GPT Toolkit — which will be available across the Ann Arbor, Flint, Dearborn and Michigan Medicine campuses.
Generative AI has the potential to be one of the most disruptive technological advances in history. While many higher ed institutions are offering AI education programs, U-M is believed to be the first major university to offer a custom AI platform for its entire community.
“We passionately believe that everyone at U-M should have access to the most powerful technology tools available. At the core of our GenAI services is the commitment to provide tools and technologies that enhance, support and augment humanity,” said Ravi Pendse, vice president for IT and chief information officer.
“Using these tools responsibly, I am confident that our community of scholars will make a positive difference in the world. I am so proud that we’re leading the development of these services, because they will be a gamechanger for how colleges use GenAI going forward.”
These tools have several key differences from most other generative AI services, such as ChatGPT, which charge monthly subscriptions for increased usage limits. For most services, U-M initially will provide no-cost levels of access with generous usage limits.
The ITS AI Services also have been designed and tested for accessibility. For example, U-M’s GPT service works seamlessly with screen-readers, which do not work when using ChatGPT. And all data shared with U-M’s AI services is private and will not be used to train AI models.
The AI platform has been approved for use with data classified as “moderate sensitive.” At this time, use with data above a moderate-sensitivity classification is not allowed. For example, this currently prohibits the use of protected health information within the GenAI tools.
Additional information about the data types that may and may not be used within the GenAI tools can be found at the ITS Safe Computing website, which provides some examples of data and their sensitivity-classification rating. ITS is working to expand the data types that may be used within the GenAI tools in the coming months.
The first new service, U-M GPT, lets users easily engage with popular GenAI models like ChatGPT and other large-language models. U-M GPT initially will be provided at no cost to the U-M community to celebrate the launch of the platform.
U-M Maizey will allow U-M users to access AI language models to query and question their own datasets. This tool can seamlessly connect to popular platforms like Google and Canvas, with access to Dropbox coming soon, allowing it to extract valuable insights from user data. Maizey will be available to students, faculty or staff with a valid shortcode from their school or unit, and will be available at no cost until Sept. 30 with usage limits based on capacity.
The final initial AI offering, U-M GPT Toolkit, will provide a platform to construct, train and host AI models securely and at scale. Optimized for advanced AI designers, Toolkit offers a creative platform where users can tailor solutions to meet a wide variety of needs. This high-level tier will come with a fee structure that allows flexibility and financial control to its users.
The platform, which has been in a beta release for several weeks, is already attracting positive attention from the U-M community.
“I’m already a fan. I’m working on tracking down citations for my book, and I turned to UM-GPT and got the info in seconds,” said Anne Gere, Arthur F. Thurnau Professor, Gertrude Buck Collegiate Professor of Education and professor of education in the Marsal Family School of Education, and professor of English language and literature in LSA.
“Generative AI is here to stay,” said Robert Jones, ITS executive director of support services, who led the development team for the new AI platform.
“U-M is taking this opportunity to lead the discussion and help show higher ed and the rest of our global community how you can provide fair, responsible and forward-thinking access to this kind of technology for an entire community. I am so excited to see what everyone at U-M can create with these tools at their disposal.”