Alibaba shows off its generative AI tech, Tongyi Qianwen

Alibaba Group on Tuesday showed off its generative artificial intelligence (AI) model — its version of the tech that powers chatbot sensation ChatGPT — and said it would be integrated into all of the company’s apps in the near future.

Called Tongyi Qianwen, the AI large-language model drafted invitation letters, planned trip itineraries and advised shoppers on types of makeup to buy in a filmed demonstration.

Tongyi Qianwen will initially be integrated into DingTalk, Alibaba’s workplace messaging app and can be used to summarise meeting notes, write emails and draft business proposals. It will also be added to Tmall Genie, Alibaba’s voice assistant.

The technology “will bring about big changes to the way we produce, the way we work, and the way we live our lives”, CEO Daniel Zhang told a live-streamed event.

AI models like Tongyi Qianwen are “the big picture for making AI more popular in the future,” he said.

The Chinese internet giant’s cloud unit plans to open up Tongyi Qianwen to clients so they can build their own customised large-language models and began registrations for Tongyi Qianwen on Friday.

Global interest in generative AI, which learns how to take actions from past data to create new content, has surged since the release of ChatGPT by Microsoft-backed OpenAI late last year.

A number of Chinese companies have revealed or teased AI models and chatbots. Search giant Baidu, announced its Ernie Bot chatbot earlier this year. The bot remains open only to trial users at the moment. On Monday, Chinese AI company SenseTime unveiled a slew of new AI products including a chatbot called SenseChat.

Zhang said that Alibaba and other companies working on AI models were at the “starting line” of a new phenomenon. “Seizing this opportunity is a common wish for all of us,” he said.

Shares in Alibaba rose 1.5% in Hong Kong trade while the broader market was flat. Shares in SenseTime initially surged but were later down 2.7%.

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