Chinese tech companies are keeping a close eye on ChatGPT’s AI skills

  • Big tech companies in the US and China rushed this month to announce they were working on artificial intelligence tools similar to ChatGPT.
  • Their ads often referenced ChatGPT, while divulging few details about what they themselves were working on.
  • Here’s what companies say they’re doing with technology.

An exhibit at the World Artificial Intelligence Conference (WAIC) in Shanghai, China on Friday, September 2, 2022.

Bloomberg | Bloomberg | Getty Images

BEIJING – ChatGPT’s business history at the moment is more about what is not known.

Big tech companies in the United States and China rushed this month to announce they were working on similar AI tools. Their announcements often referenced Microsoft-backed ChatGPT, while divulging few details about what they themselves were working on.

The AI-powered chatbot ChatGPT has taken the tech world by storm in recent months with its ability to generate everything from poems to business strategies in human-like conversation.

Yet analysts say the technology is transformative, which has also been said about blockchain and the metaverse.

Here’s what companies, including those in China, are doing in this specialized area of ​​AI:

US startup OpenAI rushed to beat its rivals by launching ChatGPT in November, according to The New York Times, citing sources. The frontend has exploded in popularity for everything from homework help to strategy development.

OpenAI did not respond to a request for comment.

Database software startup PingCap already has a ChatGPT-based product on the market. The company has offices in Beijing and San Mateo, California.

PingCap launched “Chat2Query” for customers outside of China in January which uses a publicly available application programming interface of OpenAI.

The product allows customers to analyze their company’s operating data – such as top-selling car models – in seconds without needing to know a computer programming language, said Liu Song, vice president of PingCap. He said Chat2Query is free for customers processing up to 5 gigabytes of data.

“We think the revolution may not be in AI research but in all businesses,” he said in Mandarin, translated by CNBC. However, he noted that this data needs to be organized in a standardized way.

We believe the revolution may not be in AI search, but in all businesses

Liu Song

PingCap, Vice President

Baidu, the Chinese search engine and tech giant, said on Wednesday that its AI chatbot project would first be integrated into search and open to the public in March.

The product is called “Ernie bot” in English or “Wenxin Yiyan” in Chinese, the company previously said.

Although little is known about Ernie bot’s capabilities – and how they compare to those of ChatGPT – iQiyi, the Baidu-backed video streaming platform, has announced its intention to connect to the bot for the research and AI-generated content. Baidu-backed electric car startup Jidu – which has yet to start delivering cars – also said it plans to incorporate Ernie bot.

Alibaba is expected to release its quarterly results on Thursday evening. The Chinese e-commerce and cloud giant said it was testing ChatGPT-like technology internally and did not provide a release timeline. However, Alibaba said it has been working on related AI technology since 2017.

Chinese e-commerce rival also has no launch date, but said its “ChatJD” will focus on retail and finance. It will help with tasks such as generating product summaries on shopping sites and financial analysis, the company said.

Tencent, which operates the ubiquitous Chinese messaging app WeChat, said in a statement it continues to research natural language processing. This is the field of artificial intelligence on which ChatGPT is based.

While ChatGPT has become a hot topic in China this month, even for state media, analysts note that the country’s censorship and data regulations may affect how similar technology develops in the world. country. Beijing has focused on building its own technological capabilities.

Nikkei Asia reported on Wednesday, citing sources, that regulators had told Tencent and Alibaba-affiliated Ant Group not to offer access to ChatGPT services on their platforms, either directly or through third parties.

The report does not specify which regulators. China’s cybersecurity regulator Tencent and Ant did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

In terms of technical capability, however, the United States is only months — not years — ahead of China in this AI research, a Microsoft executive told reporters this month. . ChatGPT is not available in China, although Microsoft operates in the country.

The executive said the state-backed Beijing Academy of Artificial Intelligence is one of three global leaders in artificial intelligence research, along with Google’s DeepMind and Microsoft’s partnership with OpenAI. .

Kunlun Tech plans to release an open-source Chinese version of ChatGPT as early as the middle of this year, its chairman Han Fang told CNBC last week. Open source software is publicly available and allows anyone to view, modify, or distribute the code.

The company, which generates most of its revenue outside of China, has previously said its niche web browser Opera plans to integrate ChatGPT into its products, though it’s unclear when or with what functions.

Kunlun Tech is already working in the area of ​​AI-generated content, such as music.

Fang said his commercialization plan is to first develop these AI tools. Creators can then use the tools to create their own work and post it to designated platforms for public viewing, after which the company can then sell ads, he said. It plans to launch the platforms later this year.

Fang said he was directly inspired by OpenAI’s first release of ChatGPT technology in 2020.

“We’re all talking about the metaverse, but who’s in it? he said in Mandarin, translated by CNBC. “It only changed our news. It didn’t change our lives.”

In contrast, he said generative AI technology can immediately deliver value since it operates where users are already producing and consuming content. Generative AI can also reduce production costs, allowing animators and minority language speakers to easily create their own content, Fang said.

The implications for jobs and industries remain significant.

The arrival of AI such as ChatGPT means many “cognitive tasks” seem easier to automate than manual labor like in factories – a surprise to many economists, said Anton Korinek, a professor in the Department of Economics and at the Darden School of Business at the University of Virginia. .

“The awesome but also a bit scary part is that the power of these systems has steadily progressed over the past two years,” he said, adding that he expects more powerful AI technology this year only.

“It will really imply that these models will have a revolutionary impact on our economy, on productivity, on labor markets and, ultimately, on society in general.”

– CNBC’s Arjun Kharpal and Lauren Feiner contributed to this report.

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