Alibaba tests ChatGPT-style tool as AI buzz intensifies

(Source: Reuters/Aly Song)

Alibaba Group on Wednesday said it is developing a ChatGPT-style tool that is currently in internal testing, joining a race by tech companies globally to show they are up to speed on generative artificial intelligence (AI) developments.

The Chinese e-commerce group’s statement came after the 21st Century Herald newspaper reported that Alibaba is developing a ChatGPT-like dialogue robot which is currently open to employees for testing.

When asked about the newspaper report, which also said that Alibaba might combine the technology with the group’s communication app DingTalk, Alibaba declined to comment.

The company said it had been focused on large language models and generative AI for a number of years. Large language models are natural language processing systems which are trained on massive volumes of text, and are capable of answering and comprehending questions as well as generating new text.

Alibaba’s US-listed shares rose 3.2 per cent premarket after the news.

Shares in a number of other Chinese AI technology companies have soared in the past few days due to investor excitement over Open.Ai’s ChatGPT, which can generate articles, essays and jokes in response to prompts and has been rated the fastest-growing consumer app in history.

Shares in Chinese search engine giant Baidu jumped by 15 per cent on Tuesday after it said it planned to complete testing of its “Ernie bot” in March. Google owner Alphabet Inc is also planning its own chatbot service and said it will use more artificial intelligence for its search engine.

Microsoft, which owns Open.AI, plans to tie ChatGPT in with its search engine Bing.

On Wednesday, another Chinese tech group said it was looking to integrate some methods and technology similar to ChatGPT’s into some of its products, such as its e-commerce platform’s customer service.

A source familiar with NetEase told Reuters that the Chinese gaming company plans to deploy similar large language models technology to serve its education business.

  • Reporting by Josh Horwitz and Brenda Goh in Shanghai; Additional reporting by Twinnie Siu and Josh Ye in Hong Kong, Sophie Yu in Beijing; editing by Jason Neely, Louise Heavens and Jane Merriman, of Reuters.

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