Tongyi Qianwen is Alibaba’s language model. It should move into all business areas of the company: from corporate communication to language assistants, to e-commerce and search. Tongyi Qianwen speaks Chinese and English. The first application of the AI is in DingTalk, Alibaba’s collaboration platform, similar to Microsoft Teams, and in Tmall Genie, the voice assistant that resembles an Alexa. And there are also similarities in the details: Tongyi Qianwen can summarize meetings, write e-mails and transcribe spoken content.
According to the Alibaba blog post, the language assistant can tell children stories, suggest healthy recipes and give tips for travel. The language assistants available here can actually already do all this, even if the way the answers work is different than with the generative language models. So how the conversation changes before and after AI integration is therefore unclear.
Corporate customers not only get access to Tongyi Qianwen, but should also be able to build their own customized language models on it. The Tongyi Qianwen API is available but still in beta. An image generator is also to move in. Tongyi is the name of Alibaba’s pre-trained model framework on which several AI models are based – including text-to-image and video. A version of this is available on ModelScope as open source Model-as-a-Service (MaaS), as Alibaba calls it.
AI regulation in China
Meanwhile, the Chinese government has published a draft regulation for generative artificial intelligence. Developers must therefore first submit their software to Chinese authorities for testing. Basically, all generated content must “reflect the core values of socialism”. Accordingly, numerous topics or submissions are prohibited, such as anything that could contribute to the overthrow of the socialist system. But discrimination based on ethnicity, age and gender should also be ruled out. Content created using AI should carry a watermark so that the origin can be traced. People have to register to use it – this is common practice in China.
In addition to Alibaba, the Chinese Baidu has already released a chatbot. The ErnieBot moves into the search engine. However, Baidu boss Robin Li said at the launch that the hype surrounding language models led to them releasing their chatbot, but that it was “far from perfect”.