Alibaba Launches ChatGPT-Like AI Chatbot

Chinese tech giant Alibaba on Tuesday showed a chatbot similar to OpenAI’s ChatGPT and said it plans to integrate the technology into all of its products in the near future.

The company is the latest Chinese tech firm to launch a rival to ChatGPT, after search company Baidu launched Ernie Bot to test users last month.

In a livestreamed event Alibaba chairman and chief executive Daniel Zhang showed a prerecorded demonstration in which the Tongyi Qianwen large language model (LLM) drafted invitation letters, planned trip itineraries and advised shoppers on what makeup to purchase.

Zhang said the tool will first be integrated into DingTalk, the company’s workplace messaging app, and would be able to turn conversations in meetings into written notes, write emails or draft business proposals.

Image credit: Alibaba

‘Watershed moment’

“Tongyi Qianwen” is an allusion to the works of the ancient Confucian philosopher Mencius and roughly translates as “an answer from a thousand questions”, although Alibaba has not given an official English version.

“We are at a technological watershed moment driven by generative AI and cloud computing,” said Zhang at the lauch event livestreamed from Shanghai.

He said AI would “bring about big changes to the way we produce, the way we work, and the way we live our lives”, adding that LLM models such as Tongyi Qianwen were “the big picture for making AI more popular in the future”.

Alibaba’s cloud unit began registrations for Tongyi Qianwen on Friday and plans to make the technology available to clients who will be able to create their own customised large language models.

Image credit: Alibaba

AI rush

Interest in so-called generative AI, which creates new content after having been “trained on vast amounts of material from the internet, has risen sharply since Microsoft-backed OpenAI launched ChatGPT last November.

In China a number of companies are rushing to introduce their versions of the technology, while Google launched a similar tool called Bard to a limited public in March.

But questions remain around the new field, with a number of high-profile technologists and business figures, including Steve Wozniak and Elon Musk, signing an open letter in March asking for training of next-generation LLMs to be suspended and citing the risks of the technology.

Italy became the first Western country to ban ChatGPT earlier in April over data concerns.

Matthew Broersma

Matt Broersma is a long standing tech freelance, who has worked for Ziff-Davis, ZDnet and other leading publications

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