I ran across Perplexity AI today.  Very interesting thing to try out.  Perplexity AI is an AI-chatbot-powered "research and conversational search engine" (Source: Wikipedia)

Unlike other search engines, like Google and Duck-Duck-Go, Perplexity draws on multiple large language models to produce its responses. Perplexity currently uses OpenAi's GPT-3 Turbo, Anthropic's Claude 3, and others.  Unlike a standard search engine, which give users a list of links to follow themselves, Perplexity delivers a natural language response like one would expect from a chatbot.

Some key features are:

  • Natural Language Interface
  • Web Indexing - they claim to index the web daily to provide up-to-date information.  Chatbots run at least a year out of date.
  • Cited Sources (!!!) with in-text citations
  • Follow-up questions - Perplexity can pose follow up questions to clarify or narrow a search.

The search box provides a "focus" filter.  You can select "all" (the entire internet) for your search or the following limits:

  • Wolfram/Alpha - the computational knowledge engine
  • Academic - search in published academic papers
  • You Tube - discover and watch videos
  • Writing - general text of chat without searching the web
  • Reddit - Search for discussions and opinions

You can also upload pdfs, CSV files, images, and text documents for analysis.

Perplexity has three subscription options:  

  • Free 
  • Pro - $20 per month
  • Enterprise Pro, pricing based on team size.

The free version does not require an account and support basic searches, including citations and follow-up queries.  

Are there any disadvantages?  Sure.  All AI tools return questionable information and can be repetitive.  Perplexity is an AI and vulnerable to hallucinations and other issues that affect LLMs.  And the big one in academic research - NO JOURNAL ARTICLES.  While the sources cited are worthy, especially when filtered by "academic" none of the sources cited were from recent (or even old) journal articles.

Still, Perplexity is fun to play with.  Give it a try.

Perplexity AI