April 11, 2023, the Chinese tech giant Alibaba unveiled Tongyi Qianwen, a large language model that will be embedded in its Tmall Genie smart speakers and workplace messaging platform DingTalk. It was trained on vast troves of data in order to generate compelling responses to users’ prompts.
The technology will initially be integrated into those two products and eventually added to all Alibaba applications, from e-commerce to mapping services, according to the company.
Tongyi Qianwen (通义千问 in Chinese) will be integrated into all business applications across Alibaba’s ecosystem in the near future to further enhance user experience, from enterprise communication, intelligent voice assistance, e-commerce, search, to navigation and entertainment. With Chinese and English language capabilities, the model will first be deployed on DingTalk, Alibaba’s digital collaboration workplace and application development platform, and Tmall Genie, a provider of IoT-enabled smart home appliances.
In addition, developers will soon be able to access Alibaba Cloud’s Tongyi Qianwen to create their AI applications at scale. This will further bolster the AI software ecosystem across sectors ranging from logistics to media, finance, manufacturing, energy, retail and more. Tongyi Qianwen as an API is also available for developers in China to apply for beta testing now.
Multimodal capabilities, including image understanding and text-to-image, will soon be added to the Tongyi Qianwen model to provide users with more compelling AI features.
“We are at a technological watershed moment, driven by generative AI and cloud computing,” Group CEO Daniel Zhang said.
Generative AI refers to the technology that underpins platforms like ChatGPT. The service has exploded in popularity in recent months, and Chinese tech companies have been racing to release their own versions, prompting some critics to predict that the trend will add fuel to an existing US-China rivalry in emerging technologies.