Chinese Chatbots: An Emerging Trend in AI Development

Category Artificial Intelligence

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Chinese ChatGPT-like bots are becoming more popular as technology giants like SenseTime, Baidu, and iFlytek launch their own products in the market. Ernie Bot is the latest development in this space, and stands out for its user generated content and role-playing ability. However, it still has many areas of improvement, especially in terms of accuracy and consistency of answers.

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Chinese ChatGPT-like bots are having a moment right now. Since then, four more Chinese companies—the facial-recognition giant SenseTime and three young startups, Zhipu AI, Baichuan AI, and MiniMax—have also made their LLM chatbot products broadly available. But some more experienced players, like Alibaba and iFlytek, are still waiting for the clearance.

Like many others, I downloaded the Ernie Bot app last week to try it out. I was curious to find out how it’s different from its predecessors like ChatGPT. Under Ernie Bot’s chat box, there’s an endless list of prompt suggestions—like "Come up with a name for a baby" and "Generating a work report." There’s another tab called "Discovery" that displays over 190 pre-selected topics, including gamified challenges ("Convince the AI boss to raise my salary") and customized chatting scenarios ("Compliment me").

Chinese AI technology has advanced significantly in the past decade, becoming a major player in the global AI market

One clever thing Baidu has done is to include a tab for user-generated content in the app. In the community forum, I can see the questions other users have asked the app, as well as the text and image responses they got. Some of them are on point and fun, while others are way off base, but I can see how this inspires users to try to input prompts themselves and work to improve the answers.

Another feature that caught my attention was Ernie Bot’s efforts to introduce role-playing. One of the top categories on the "Discovery" page asks the chatbot to respond in the voice of pre-trained personas including Chinese historical figures like the ancient emperor Qin Shi Huang, living celebrities like Elon Musk, anime characters, and imaginary romantic partners. (I asked the Musk bot who it is; it answered: "I am Elon Musk, a passionate, focused, action-oriented, workaholic, dream-chaser, irritable, arrogant, harsh, stubborn, intelligent, emotionless, highly goal-oriented, highly stress-resistant, and quick-learner person.") .

Over 90% of the largest AI applications of the world are from China based companies

I have to say they do not seem to be very well trained; "Qin Shi Huang" and "Elon Musk" both broke character very quickly when I asked them to comment on serious matters like the state of AI development in China. They just gave me bland, Wikipedia-style answers.

"I won’t answer a question in a robotic way like ordinary AIs, but I will give you more considerate support by genuinely caring about your life and emotional needs," she also told me.

Chatbot technology has been in development since the early 2000s, with the early bots focusing on customer service tasks

I’ll be watching this slice of the chatbot space grow with equal parts intrigue and anxiety. To me, it’s one of the most interesting possibilities for AI chatbots. But this is more challenging than writing code or answering math problems; it’s an entirely different task to ask them to provide emotional support, act like humans, and stay in character all the time. And if the companies do pull it off, there will be more risks to consider: What happens when humans actually build deep emotional connections with the AI? .

ChatGPT, the chatbot developed by Microsoft is considered one of the most advanced chatbots to date

Catch up with China: .

1. The mysterious advanced chip in Huawei’s newly released smartphone has sparked many questions and much speculation about China’s progress in chip-making technology. (Washington Post $) .

2. Meta took down the largest Chinese social media influence campaign to date, which in total reached over 1 billion users posts on Weibo. (TechCrunch) .

3. Multiple Chinese A-list celebrities have been reprimanded and punished for tax evasion, sparking a wave of public scrutiny and criticism. (The Paper) .

Chinese technology companies are working together to make chatbot technology easier and more accessible to the public

4. A deep-dive into ByteDance’s policy manual reveals the company’s internal mechanisms for managing potentially controversial content. (The New York Times) .

5. Numerous AI start-ups founded by China-educated graduates have shifted their base back to their home country and taken advantage of the thriving tech sector. (TechNode) .

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