Tech Giants Race to Incorporate AI in China’s Offices
SHANGHAI — With AI-powered tools now able to generate content, summarize information, translate text, and facilitate various office tasks, China’s offices are racing to incorporate large language models (LLMs) into their productivity tools.
The wave of AI integration has sparked intense competition among tech companies, with leading players such as Kingsoft Office, Baidu, and Alibaba looking to develop and incorporate their own ChatGPT-like models.
At the recently concluded World Artificial Intelligence Conference, the Beijing-based Kingsoft Office captivated crowds by unveiling its latest WPS office suite integrated with an innovative AI tool called “WPS AI.”
The digital tool can generate a wide range of content, including news articles, weekly work reports, and job posts, simply by inputting a few words. Furthermore, the tool allows for the generated content to be expanded, condensed, and translated based on additional text requests.
Kingsoft Office isn’t the only tech firm in China rushing to tap into the latest generative AI advancements to upgrade its products. Following Microsoft’s announcement that it would integrate GPT-4 services into Microsoft 365, at least six Chinese companies have also revealed plans to incorporate generative AI tools into their productivity software.
However, it is worth noting that these tools have not yet been made available to the public, as development and testing are still underway.
“It is exciting to see Microsoft’s rise because we now have a powerful competitor to help us develop the market,” Wang Youqiu, a deputy product director at Kingston Office, told Sixth Tone.
“We aspire to generate content that is genuinely useful and that users are willing to utilize,” stated Wang. “Instead of perceiving it as a mere search engine, our goal is for users to view it as their second brain.”
He added that Microsoft’s innovation provided a clear direction for the industry’s overall development. As a result, companies are racing to find improved solutions for human-machine interaction to reshape the user experience of office tools.
In April, Infoflow, a smart work platform owned by search giant Baidu, launched new features, including for generating and summarizing content, as well as text-to-image generation, all derived from the company’s ChatGPT-like Ernie Bot.
The company further upgraded the service in June, allowing users to use the new AI tool to get summaries from meetings and private chat messages.
DingTalk, an office software tool developed by Alibaba, unveiled its AI-powered feature in April, enabling users to automatically create keynotes and action items from live meeting recordings using the company’s large language model, Tongyi Qianwen.
Additionally, other tech companies, including speech recognition giant iFlytek and software provider Wonderstore, have also launched similar content generation services in their office tools in the past few months.
The adoption of large LLMs in offices reflects the fierce competition among tech giants like Baidu, Alibaba, and Huawei, leading to what is referred to as the “thousand LLM war” in China.
“The large language model is merely a means to achieve the goal; it is not the goal itself,” said Wang, highlighting the importance of applying this advancing technology in practical applications to demonstrate its true value to users.
While acknowledging the presence of market hype, Wang remains optimistic about domestic LLM players. He believes that Chinese models will eventually reach GPT-4 capabilities through rapid growth, despite acknowledging the need to exercise caution amidst inflated expectations.
“The value of (AI-generated) content is inspiring new ideas and expanding thoughts,” said Wang. While most AI-powered functions are currently achieved through text conversations, Wang said the ultimate goal is to improve efficiency with better interactions.
“In fact, there shouldn’t be a conflict between dialog boxes and clicking buttons; they are inherently not in conflict with each other. They can coexist harmoniously without any major conflicts,” said Wang.
Moving forward, the company’s next objective is to enrich its data resources to provide users with a wider range of content options. As part of this effort, the company is currently testing a new feature that allows the chatbot to ask clarifying questions in response to user text prompts.
(Header image: A Baidu exhibit at the World Artificial Intelligence Conference (WAIC) in Shanghai, July 6, 2023. VCG)