More ChatGPT-like services are brewing in China. Here are some recent announcements

More ChatGPT-like services are brewing in China. Here are some recent announcementsSource: Shutterstock

More ChatGPT-like services are brewing in China. Here are some recent announcements

  • Alibaba Cloud this week revealed its ChatGPT-style chatbot Tongyi Qianwen  in China, which will be rolled out into all of its products from enterprise communication to e-commerce.
  • Alibaba-backed SenseTime also recently unveiled its large AI model SenseNova and a user-facing chatbot called SenseChat.

Since ChatGPT was launched in November 2022, companies in China have been touting plans to develop similar technology, given the generative AI chatbot by OpenAI was never made available to the Chinese market. The country’s best hope at catching up to ChatGPT was spurred with Baidu’s Ernie Bot. 

Although it was a bumpy launch with no live preview on March 16, Ernie was found by early users to have better English-to-Chinese translations than ChatGPT. Baidu’s Ernie has been touted for the Chinese market as China’s closest answer to ChatGPT. As time passed, more technology companies in China were coming forward with their answers to ChatGPT.

However, AI has always played a central role in developing China’s technology sector. In 2018 President Xi Jinping acknowledged how AI is strategically important and could lead to a technological revolution and industrial changes with a “profound impact on economic development, social progress, and the pattern of the international political economy.”

The ensuing years in the country saw the emergence of the “four little dragons” – Cloudwalk Technology, Megvii, SenseTime, and Yitu – all focused on the AI field of visual recognition. Fast forward to this week, Alibaba-backed SenseTime, flexed its suite of new AI services, the large AI model Sense Nova and user-facing chatbot SenseChat, developed with the company’s access to vast troves of data and deep computing power.

According to Bloomberg’s report, with the staff’s help, Xu introduced how SenseChat could tell a story about a cat catching fish with multiple rounds of questions and responses. He then demonstrated how the bot could help write computer code, take layman-level questions in English or Chinese, and translate them into a workable product.

“With SenseNova, we can provide a supermarket of AI big models,” Xu shared, adding that the company welcomes its partners to connect to the big model and upgrade it with us. Xu also shared that human programmers currently do about 80% of the work in AI development, but in the future, the load will be reversed so that AI can handle 80% of the effort while humans take on 20% of the work to direct and polish. 

“The AI model can also help double-check, translate, and revise code,” he said. On the same day, Xu unveiled an image processing tool called Miaohua, or “draw in seconds.” That is followed by another demo about a product called Ruying, or “like a shadow,” which can model the moves of a human to animate a digital being in a video. 

Besides Baidu and SenseTime, another big Chinese household name that has dipped its toes in the ChatGPT space is Alibaba. This week, its cloud arm, Alibaba Cloud, unveiled its latest large language model called Tongyi Qianwen through its official WeChat account. The Chinese cloud giant opened the chatbot to invite-only beta testing for corporate clients.

“Tongyi Qianwen will be integrated into all business applications across Alibaba’s ecosystem soon, from enterprise communication, intelligent voice assistance, e-commerce, and search to navigation and entertainment, to enhance user experiences further,” the company said. 

Capable of answering questions in both Chinese and English languages, the model will first be deployed on DingTalk, Alibaba’s digital collaboration workplace and application development platform, and Tmall Genie, a provider of IoT-enabled smart home appliances. Alibaba Cloud will also offer its clients access to Tongyi Qianwen on the cloud and help them build customized large language models. 

The company also shared that developers will soon be able to access Alibaba Cloud’s Tongyi Qianwen to create their AI applications at scale, further bolstering the AI software ecosystem across sectors. “Tongyi Qianwen as an API is also available for developers in China to apply for beta testing now. Multimodal capabilities, including image understanding and text-to-image, will be added to the Tongyi Qianwen model soon to provide users with more compelling AI features,” Alibaba Cloud said.