Alibaba, the China-based tech giant, is making significant strides in the field of generative artificial intelligence (AI). While Alibaba is best known for its e-commerce platform, it is also a leader in cloud services through its subsidiary Alibaba Cloud. Leveraging its position in the retail and web services industries, the company is developing tools and models that allow businesses to harness the power of generative AI.
One of Alibaba’s flagship offerings is Tongyi Qianwen, a large language model (LLM) often compared to OpenAI’s ChatGPT. Tongyi Qianwen functions as a question-and-answers bot and coding co-pilot, capable of generating and error-checking code in various programming languages. The tool has been integrated into Alibaba’s retail business, Taobao, where it powers a service called Taobao Ask, providing customized product recommendations and comparisons.
Tongyi Qianwen has also been incorporated into other Alibaba platforms like Tingqu, a voice AI system used in the Tmall Genie smart speaker and the DingTalk workplace messaging app. In these applications, the model assists with tasks such as drafting meeting summaries, creating personalized schedules, generating marketing copy, and producing action plans from sketches and handwritten notes.
Alibaba’s strategy extends beyond using Tongyi Qianwen internally. The company aims to enable businesses to develop their own generative AI solutions using its models. To facilitate this, Alibaba has launched Modelscope, a model-as-a-service platform that provides access to hundreds of pre-trained generative tools via its cloud platform. The company has also formed partnerships with smartphone manufacturer Oppo and Zhejiang University to roll out its generative AI technology.
In addition to Tongyi Qianwen, Alibaba has developed the Tongyi Wanxiang model for image generation. This model utilizes diffusion technology and incorporates a new model developed by Alibaba researchers called Composer, providing finer control over the output images. Through a text prompt, users can instruct the model on how the new image should look.
Unlike some of its competitors, Alibaba has chosen to open source Tongyi Qianwen and several models available through Modelscope. By making the source code available to the public, Alibaba allows developers worldwide to contribute improvements and alterations. This move aligns with China’s AI legislation, which requires transparency in generative AI services. Facebook (now Meta) also recently open sourced its Llama-2 language model, indicating a growing trend in the industry.
Alibaba’s CEO, Eddie Wu, has emphasized the company’s focus on becoming more customer-centric and AI-driven. By participating in the “War of a Hundred Models,” Alibaba is demonstrating its commitment to advancing the field of generative AI. The company’s efforts in this area align with its broader vision of leveraging technology to drive sales and enhance customer experiences.
As Alibaba continues its pursuit of generative AI, it will likely contribute to the rapid advancement of this technology and its applications across various industries. By providing access to its models and collaborating with other companies and institutions, Alibaba is fostering innovation and pushing the boundaries of what generative AI can achieve.