Solana launches ChatGPT plug-in to help users interact with its network

As the artificial intelligence market continues to heat up, a number of crypto players — big and small — are diving in.

The Solana Foundation, the nonprofit organization behind the layer-1 blockchain Solana, has officially integrated AI into its network with a ChatGPT plug-in developed by Solana Labs, the team exclusively told TechCrunch+. (Solana Labs is the team building products and tools for the blockchain.)

The plug-in, which was teased by Solana Labs in late April, will be geared toward end users initially, with a focus on helping them onboard into the web3 space. It can be used to buy and list NFTs, transfer tokens, check out transactions, interpret data and find NFT collections by floor price, Solana Foundation shared.

Solana is plugging ChatGPT into an RPC node that will read data from multiple sources on-chain and disseminate that information to questioning users, said Tal Tchwella, head of product at Solana Labs.

For example, users can ask the AI questions about NFT collections, which NFTs they can buy with the SOL tokens they have in their account and so on. “There’s a lot of places this could be useful … we’re hopeful to see more experimentation by dApps — and that’ll be the exciting part.”

The ChatGPT plug-in will initially focus on NFTs and given that Solana’s NFT sales by volume was about $58 million in the past 30 days, the subsector is likely a good choice given that it is already heavily used by the blockchain and its users.

But there’s also initiatives on the developer front to help accelerate the growth of AI within its ecosystem, too, Tchwella shared.

The ChatGPT integration offers a new way for Solana users and developers to ask the AI service questions, while “making the experience simpler,” Tchwella said. As opposed to reading an 800-page document on a Solana-based project, the AI does it for you and then can share answers to people’s questions.

“We believe that the blockchain space is way too technical,” Tchwella said. Bringing the popular ChatGPT service to Solana “offers a new opportunity for people to engage with it and understand what’s really happening.”

In addition to the plug-in, the foundation also announced an AI-focused accelerator program for university-level students in early April and, separately, expanded its grant program for AI-focused projects building on Solana from $1 million in late April to $10 million today. In less than a month, over 50 applications were submitted for grants and a few companies have been awarded grants already, a spokesperson shared.

The grant program isn’t about coming up with ideas and trying to build them but showing Solana the proof of concept of what’s actually working in the realm of AI and will make using the blockchain easier, Tchwella said.

“We’re just at the beginning of AI integration,” Tchwella said. “It’s the early innings of all this.”

Everyone is all-in on AI

Broadly speaking, there are myriad potential applications and use cases for AI in the crypto space, and TechCrunch+ has already observed a number of projects across different chains pop up that are focused on the technology.

Will startups have a shot in the enterprise AI race?

Last week, Alliance DAO’s most recent cohort of 16 startups presented their ideas during a demo day — and three of them were AI-focused. Sure, that’s a small fraction of the larger pool, but it’s up from zero AI/crypto startups in its previous demo day from November, which signals that there’s a shift underway in the crypto industry.

— Kristin Merrilees (@kristnmerrilees) May 22, 2023

On Solana, there’s also a handful of crypto projects leaning into AI like Context, which built AI-powered chatbots that focus on training itself to understand over 30 Solana-based projects so users can ask it’s AI interface technical questions without having to sift through documentation, codes and more themselves.

Tchwella expects that AI technology will be able to streamline the development process for smart contracts — a key part of blockchain technology that turns the living databases into programmable systems — and make it easier to build more accessible experiences more generally. He added that the principal at play in bringing AI to Solana is actually rather general: If we can improve things, why not?