China’s SenseTime Unveils SenseChat, the Next Generation of AI-Powered Chatbots

Shanghai-based SenseTime Group Inc. has made a splash in the world of artificial intelligence (AI) by unveiling its new AI model, SenseNova, and the accompanying user-facing chatbot, SenseChat. Positioned as China’s response to the AI phenomenon ChatGPT, SenseChat is set to revolutionize the way people interact with AI-powered technology.

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During the grand reveal event, SenseTime’s Chief Executive Officer, Xu Li, took the stage to showcase the impressive capabilities of SenseChat. The demonstration included SenseChat’s ability to tell a story about a cat catching fish, engaging in multiple rounds of questions and responses with users. Moreover, SenseChat’s proficiency extended beyond storytelling to practical applications, such as assisting with writing computer code.

Users can input layman-level questions in either English or Chinese, and SenseChat will translate them into a workable product, effectively bridging the gap between everyday language and programming language. Xu Li envisions a future where AI takes on the bulk of development work, stating that while human programmers currently handle about 80% of the work in AI development, this dynamic will shift to allow AI to handle 80% of the effort, with humans contributing 20% to direct and polish the work. SenseChat’s capabilities also include double-checking, translating, and revising code, adding an extra layer of assurance to the development process.

SenseTime, a leader in computer vision, is joining the global race to develop generative AI, a field that gained significant popularity after OpenAI’s ChatGPT captured the imagination of the public. The company is backed by Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., which, like other major tech firms, is exploring the integration of generative AI across its services. Alibaba recently invited corporate cloud customers to test drive the service, underscoring the growing demand for AI-powered solutions.

However, concerns loom over Chinese companies’ ability to secure access to high-end chips and technology needed for large-scale AI models, especially given the US sanctions that limit SenseTime’s access to capital and crucial American components. Last year, the Biden administration imposed restrictions on the sale of AI accelerator chips to Chinese customers, adding another layer of complexity to the development of generative models.

SenseTime, co-founded by Massachusetts Institute of Technology alum Tang Xiao’ou, was one of the most highly anticipated debuts of 2021. Despite uncertainties surrounding US sanctions, SenseTime’s initial public offering (IPO) surged as much as 23%, briefly making Tang one of the world’s wealthiest individuals. With news of the April 10 event igniting investor interest, SenseTime’s stock has soared by about 25%.

As the Chinese economy experiences turbulence and SenseTime’s revenue declines, investors are hopeful that advances in AI will rekindle the growth that once excited markets. China has been transparent about its ambition to elevate AI, especially given the ongoing conflict with the US over technology.

The Chinese government is considering the introduction of rules to govern the use of AI across various industries. This regulatory move could provide clearer ground rules for future services while ensuring AI-powered platforms like SenseChat adhere to the Communist Party’s strict ban on controversial or undesirable content online.