Alibaba ramps up AI war, launches Slack-like app
In its bid to offer a competitor to ChatGPT for the Chinese market, Alibaba Group is moving to integrate its new artificial intelligence model into Amazon Echo-like smart speakers as well as office chat software.
According to reports, the new AI model, Tongyi Qianwen, which was unveiled by Chief Executive Officer Daniel Zhang, is going to be added to the company’s Slack-like DingTalk app as well as its smart home appliance provider Tmall Genie.
According to Zhang, the large language model, roughly translated as “Truth from a Thousand Questions” will be incorporated across all of Alibaba’s products and services in the “near future,”. He, however, did not specify a timeframe.
The new model came amid the launch of similar debuts from SenseTime Group Inc and Baidu Inc. which were eyeing to build the definitive next-generation AI platform for the world’s largest internet market.
The trend marks a growing wave of development abroad, with Alphabet Inc’s Google and Microsoft Corp among the many tech companies exploring generative AI, a high-end tool that creates original content from poetry to art just with simple user prompts.
According to reports, Alibaba shares rose as much as 3.8% in Hong Kong on Tuesday, while Baidu slumped 6.4% and SenseTime gave up most of the gains of an early surge of 11% in the wake of its introduction the prior day.
Alibaba endeavours to cash in on the AI frenzy triggered by OpenAI’s ChatGPT which attracted large customers for its cloud computing platform.
“We are at a technological watershed moment driven by generative AI and cloud computing, and businesses across all sectors have started to embrace intelligence transformation to stay ahead of the game,” Zhang was quoted as saying by Bloomberg.
Zhang’s keynote speech was peppered with details of Alicloud’s years-long history. He talked about Tongyi Qianwen’s potential to better serve enterprise clients, both large and small. The presentation came a day after Chinese AI specialist SenseTime spent hours demonstrating how its new models, SenseNova and SenseChat, could handle a range of common questions in both English and Chinese.
Alibaba Cloud began offering invitation codes for corporate users and developers to test out its flagship AI product last Friday. Like SenseTime, Alibaba’s AI model will provide services in English and Chinese and will soon include capabilities for image recognition and text-to-image generation.
The debut of Alibaba’s AI model marked the first major product launch since Zhang personally took charge of the cloud intelligence arm in the firm’s newly reconfigured corporate structure.
Zhang has often spoken of AI as a driver of potentially exponential growth for Alibaba, which can both provide services of its own and support other AI businesses with its cloud computing products.
At a December conference call, Zhang stated that due to the need for extensive computing power, there will be an exponential increase in demand for these technologies.
Alibaba has been scaling up its AI capability for quite some time. Its DAMO Academy launched M6, a 10-trillion-parameter pre-training model last year. The model has been used to power searches and recommendations on Alibaba’s marketplace Taobao, especially for text and image pairing. Alibaba’s ChatGPT-like bot is also currently conducting internal testing. Online retailing rival JD.com Inc. has said its cloud business is working on natural language processing and conversation generation.
AI rivalry has intensified between the US and China, raising concerns over whether Chinese companies will be able to retain reliable access to the high-end chips needed to develop large-scale AI models in the long run.
While Chinese AI efforts are playing catch-up to their American competitors, investors have cheered domestic efforts from every major tech firm to build ChatGPT alternatives.
Among Chinese big firms, Baidu stole the show by announcing its public entry in the race — with its Ernie Bot last month — and scaling up pressure for similar offerings from Alibaba and Tencent Holdings Ltd, the other major player in China’s internet sphere.