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China's Quora-like platform Zhihu embeds AI feature on Q&A service, joining other mainland tech firms in ChatGPT frenzy

Chinese Quora-like question-and-answer service Zhihu has developed a new search function that completes tasks using an artificial intelligence (AI) algorithm, similar to the content-generating technology behind US start-up OpenAI's ChatGPT.

Zhihu, China's biggest knowledge-sharing platform operator, will immediately start its internal test of the function called Sousuo Juhe, which translates to "search aggregation" in English, according to company chief technology officer Li Dahai, who was cited in a report on Saturday by state-backed newspaper Science and Technology Daily.

Acting on a user's search for a specific topic, the new feature would extract and compile user-generated answers to offer a comprehensive result, which "improves the efficiency in accessing information", the report said.

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Zhihu uses a large language model (LLM) that it co-developed with Beijing-based AI start-up ModelBest, in which the New York- and Hong Kong-listed company led a funding round in April.

At that time, Zhihu and ModelBest said they were jointly training the LLM called "Zhihaitu AI" and exploring its application on the trending list section of the Chinese question-and-answer service.

An LLM is a deep-learning algorithm that can recognise, summarise, translate, predict and generate text and other content based on knowledge gained from massive data sets.

ModelBest on Saturday also unveiled its own ChatGPT-like chatbot, named Luca, that is able to draft documents, translate articles and analyse images.

These latest consumer AI developments come days after internet watchdog the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) warned that advanced technologies such as generative AI - exemplified by chatbot app ChatGPT, which is not available on the mainland - could pose a "serious challenge" to governance, regulation and the labour market in the country.

The separate announcements from Zhihu and ModelBest reflect how Chinese tech firms are making the most of AI advances, while walking a fine line to abide by Beijing's efforts to regulate and rein in the rapid development of ChatGPT-like services on the mainland.

Online search provider Baidu, e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding, AI firm SenseTime and voice recognition developer iFlyTek have each introduced their own alternative services to ChatGPT, which took the world by storm after its launch in November. Alibaba owns the Post.

In April, the CAC unveiled a new set of draft rules targeting ChatGPT-like services. It requires companies that provide generative AI services in China to take measures that prevent discriminatory content, false information, and content that harms personal privacy or intellectual property.

Still, Beijing has expressed support for this nascent sector's development. Last month's quarterly meeting of the Politburo, the Chinese Communist Party's No 2 decision-making body, concluded that China must "create an ecosystem for innovation, but at the same time take risk prevention into account".

This article originally appeared in the South China Morning Post (SCMP), the most authoritative voice reporting on China and Asia for more than a century. For more SCMP stories, please explore the SCMP app or visit the SCMP's Facebook and Twitter pages. Copyright © 2023 South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.

Copyright (c) 2023. South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.