September 22, 2023

Hong Kong

Alibaba showed off its answer to the ChatGPT craze on Tuesday, demonstrating new software that it plans to eventually roll out across all its platforms.

The Chinese tech giant unveiled Tongyi Qianwen, a large language model that will be embedded in its Tmall Genie smart speakers and workplace messaging platform DingTalk. It was trained on vast troves of data in order to generate compelling responses to users’ prompts.

The technology will initially be integrated into those two products and eventually added to all Alibaba

applications, from e-commerce to mapping services, according to the company.

Group CEO Daniel Zhang, who also oversees Alibaba’s cloud division, presented the new AI-powered service at a conference in Beijing, where the company demonstrated how it will allow users to transcribe meeting notes, craft business pitches and tell children’s stories.

Alibaba Group CEO Daniel Zhang speaking Tuesday as the Chinese tech giant showed off its answer to the ChatGPT craze, demonstrating new software it plans to integrate across its enterprise and consumer platforms.

The company has opened up Tongyi Qianwen — which roughly translates as “seeking truth by asking a thousand questions” — to enterprise customers for testing before making it available to more users.

“We are at a technological watershed moment, driven by generative AI and cloud computing,” Zhang said.

Generative AI refers to the technology that underpins platforms like ChatGPT. The service has exploded in popularity in recent months, and Chinese tech companies have been racing to release their own versions, prompting some critics to predict that the trend will add fuel to an existing US-China rivalry in emerging technologies.

Alibaba, which has a large cloud computing business, will also allow clients of that division to use the new technology to build their own customized large language models, the firm said in a statement.

The debut comes after that of Baidu

, which launched its own ChatGPT-style service last month. During a similar presentation, Baidu

showed how its chatbot, called ERNIE, could generate a company newsletter, come up with a corporate slogan and solve a math riddle.

On Monday, SenseTime, one of China’s most prominent AI companies, launched a suite of new services, including a chatbot called SenseChat.

China will be setting rules to govern the operation of such services. In draft guidelines issued Tuesday to solicit public feedback, the country’s cyberspace regulator said generative AI services would be required to undergo security reviews before they can operate.

Service providers will also be required to verify users’ real identities. In addition, they must provide information about the scale and type of data they use, their basic algorithms and other technical information.

Alibaba’s shares in Hong Kong ticked up 1.6% following its demonstration.

The company announced last month that it planned to split its business into six units. Most of those units, including its cloud services business that oversees AI projects, will be authorized to raise capital and pursue public listings.

— Juliana Liu contributed to this report.


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