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China’s Zhipu AI says it is developing Sora-like technology as a path to artificial general intelligence

Beijing Zhipu Huazhang Technology Co (Zhipu AI), an early pioneer of Chinese large language models (LLM), said it is developing Sora-like technology as a pathway to achieving artificial general intelligence (AGI), underlining domestic ambition to catch up with US advances.

Sora, OpenAI’s text-to-video generator, will be available to the public later this year, prompting many firms in China – where Microsoft-backed OpenAI’s ChatGPT is not directly available – to redouble their efforts to catch up with recent US progress in the field.

“About the advent of Sora, first we’re not surprised, second we’re also working on [similar technology],” Zhang Peng, chief executive of Beijing-based Zhipu AI, was quoted as saying by local media outlet TMTPost this week.

Zhang commended Sora, calling its multi-modal capabilities “very state-of-the-art”, and acknowledged the current technological gap between Sora and similar Chinese efforts.

“Sora has experienced progressive enhancement, there’s still a gap between [it] and us and we need to keep working hard,” Zhang was cited as saying in the report.

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Zhipu was among the first Chinese companies to explore development of LLMs, the technology that underpins OpenAI’s ChatGPT and similar services. It was founded in June 2019 by a group of computer science research fellows at the prestigious Tsinghua University, one year ahead of OpenAI’s release of its GPT-3 LLM series.

The firm was established on the back of research by Tsinghua’s Knowledge Engineering Group (KEG). Zhang has a doctoral degree from the school’s computer science department and was a core team member at KEG.

Zhipu announced in October that it had raised a total of 2.5 billion yuan (US$342 million). It has been backed by a raft of China’s Big Tech companies and venture capital (VC) firms, including Alibaba Group Holding, which owns the Post, Tencent Holdings, Meituan and Xiaomi.

VC backers include HongShan, formerly Sequoia China, and GL Ventures, the VC arm of Hillhouse Capital.

Zhipu’s answer to ChatGPT was released last March – called ChatGLM. It was among the first batch of generative AI services that the Chinese government approved for public release.

Beijing has kept generative AI services on a short leash, requiring all local services to file for a permit before public release and restricting the use of foreign chatbots.

At the same time, some of the world’s leading AI start-ups – including OpenAI, Google, Anthropic and Europe’s Mistral AI – have not made their products available on the mainland.

Zhang is still hopeful about future collaboration with foreign firms on AI technologies, according to the TMTPost report, and is eyeing overseas markets.

“Going global is a very important strategy … for us as a Chinese company, going outside [of China] would be a very important milestone,” Zhang said.

Originally Appeared Here

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