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China ushers in golden era of AI, chatbots

AIGC-related technologies, including ChatGPT-like tools, drive content production for media, entertainment, education

Chinese tech companies are ramping up efforts to make a foray into the fast-growing artificial intelligence-generated content sector and roll out AI-powered chatbots or products similar to ChatGPT, which has taken the world by storm since its launch in November due to its advanced conversational capabilities.

Launched by U.S.-based AI research company OpenAI, ChatGPT is able to mimic human-like responses to prompts with AI-generated content, and assist people with tasks such as writing essays and scripts, drafting business proposals, creating poetry and even checking program bugs by leveraging machine-learning algorithms.

Experts said that AI-generated content and ChatGPT-related technologies are likely to become a new engine driving innovation in content production and free human creators from tedious tasks, enabling them to focus on creative thinking, with immense application potential in a wide range of fields like culture, media, entertainment and education.

Chinese enterprises possess the advantages of offering users AI-powered conversational results in the context of the Chinese language, and more efforts are needed to pool resources in improving algorithm models, computing power and natural language processing abilities, they added.

Alibaba Group confirmed on Feb 8 that it is developing a ChatGPTstyle AI tool, which is currently under internal testing. The company did not give a timeline for its ChatGPT rival to be launched.

Frontier innovations, such as large language models and generative AI, have been the company’s focus areas since the formation of Damo Academy, a research institute launched by Alibaba in 2017, said an Alibaba spokesperson.

“As a technology leader, we will continue to invest in turning cutting-edge innovations into value-added applications for our customers, as well as their end users, through cloud services,” the spokesperson added.

Baidu Inc, China’s largest search engine company, announced on Feb 7 that a similar AI chatbot project called Ernie Bot will complete internal testing in March before being launched publicly.

The Beijing-based company has invested large sums of money in developing its Ernie system, a large-scale machine-learning model that has been developed over several years, and possesses in-depth semantic comprehension and generation capabilities.

Robin Li, co-founder and CEO of Baidu, said in January that as the threshold for technology applications continues to lower, creators are expected to usher in the golden era of AI.

“AI has gone from understanding pictures and text to generating content,” Li said, adding that AIGC will subvert existing content production models in the next decade, and AI has the potential to meet the massive demand for content at a tenth of the cost and a hundred or a thousand times faster.

Other Chinese tech companies have jumped on the chatbot bandwagon. JD Cloud, the cloud computing branch of Chinese e-commerce platform JD, announced on Feb 10 that it will launch a ChatGPT-like product ChatJD for industrial applications based on its AI platform Yanxi.

ChatJD features an AI-powered machine dialogue platform that can generate content and understand users’ intentions. The service is expected to be used in fields such as retail and finance.

NetEase announced on Feb 9 that its education subsidiary Youdao has been working on AI-generated content and is promoting its application in the education sector. Intelligent speech and AI company iFlytek said ChatGPT-related technology will be first used in its learning machine.

Pan Helin, co-director of the Digital Economy and Financial Innovation Research Center at Zhejiang University’s International Business School, said ChatGPT, as a milestone in AIGC-related technologies, uses reinforcement learning from human feedback to train the large language model, with significant enhancements in natural language processing capacities that improve response logic.

It features strong semantic understanding and logical capabilities based on context, but “it has higher requirements for algorithms and computing power, which relies on considerable capital investments”, Pan said.

He noted that ChatGPT may assist humans in writing texts and computer code, as well as analyzing and processing data, enabling the latter to be more productive and efficient.

“Therefore, the application of ChatGPT-related technology will lower the threshold of many jobs like content creators and programmers and enhance work efficiency, but it will not eventually replace the human workforce,” Pan added.

According to a report released by Tencent Research Institute, AIGC will lead to a new revolution in the field of digital content, bolster innovation in the digital culture industry and facilitate the development of chatbots, digital humans and the metaverse.

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