ByteDance Ltd. is testing an artificial intelligence-powered chatbot among employees, joining rival Chinese internet conglomerates from Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. to Baidu Inc. in a race to create a local version of ChatGPT.
TikTok’s owner has code-named the project “Grace,” a ByteDance spokesperson said without revealing more details. Employees using the service will be greeted by a pop-up message saying it’s based on several large language models, according to one of the testers, who asked to remain unidentified discussing an internal project.
The mysterious chatbot is the first official indication of ByteDance’s push into the nascent field of generative AI, which took off after OpenAI demonstrated its potential by rolling out ChatGPT in November. The Chinese company, which also runs domestic video service Douyin, has been developing smartphone apps based on AI algorithmic recommendations ever since computer whizzes Zhang Yiming and Liang Rubo founded the outfit more than a decade ago.
China’s internet sector has begun a headlong rush into AI investment. Search leader Baidu delivered the first major answer to ChatGPT in March, Ernie Bot, igniting a race by companies including Alibaba, Tencent Holdings Ltd. and SenseTime Group Inc. to unveil rival platforms. Chinese local press had reported that ByteDance is developing its own large language models, which the company didn’t confirm.
All of them are vying for dominance of a lucrative domestic market in the likely absence of ChatGPT and Western peers like Google’s Bard. China’s top internet regulator has said it will require a security review of generative AI tools before they can be put into action. US sanctions, meanwhile, have deprived Chinese tech firms of the best chips to train their AI models.
Globally, TikTok is also experimenting with a chatbot named Tako. For now, it appears as an instant messenger inside TikTok’s main platform, where users can ask questions.
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