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Alibaba Drives Record Agreement with Mint, a $2.5 billion China AI Company

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Alibaba Drives Record Agreement with Mint, a $2.5 billion China AI Company

Following a series of major investments, Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. led the largest single financing round for a Chinese artificial intelligence startup. This indicates that the e-commerce company is once again allocating cash in the pursuit of growth.

Alibaba has made significant investments in generative AI, the technology that underpins ChatGPT, alongside Tencent Holdings Ltd. and other Silicon Valley heavyweights like Microsoft Corp. According to people familiar with the deal, it spearheaded a $1 billion fundraising round in Moonshot AI with current supporter Monolith Management, increasing the year-old company’s valuation eight-fold to almost $2.5 billion. They joined previous backers including food delivery giant Meituan’s investment arm Long-Z and Hongshan, formerly Sequoia China, the people said, asking not to be identified discussing a private transaction.

Established in March 2023, Moonshot AI is one of the more well-known Chinese businesses focused on generative AI, with aspirations to someday compete with OpenAI and Google. Since releasing its Kimi chatbot to the general public in November of last year, it has introduced a platform that allows developers to create AI apps on top of its model. The company was only worth $300 million when it first obtained investment.

Regarding the company’s funding information, which were initially made public by local media, including 36kr, Moonshot AI declined to comment. Without providing any specifics, Monolith declared its involvement in the most recent round. Requests for comments from Alibaba representatives were met with silence.

Joseph Tsai and Eddie Wu, the company’s new CEOs, have promised to turn around a struggling business that has been severely damaged by two years of regulatory scrutiny and a downturn in the economy. It’s promoting fresh investment in disruptive technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) and coordinating a convoluted multi-way split that will elevate business lines from cloud to logistics. According to Tsai, the cloud division currently services roughly 80% of China’s IT companies and is home to half of the nation’s generative AI startups.

However, they are entering a competitive industry as tech giants and venture capital firms invest billions in AI service development and training, following a surge of activity in Silicon Valley and Europe. Other Chinese AI businesses, like Baichuan and Zhipu, raised substantial sums from investors.

That’s in spite of persistent worries about US sanctions that prevent Chinese companies from purchasing the most potent Nvidia Corp. chips, which are needed to develop and execute AI models. Due to the technology’s potential for military and geopolitical use, which might strain already strained relations, Washington has targeted China’s AI initiatives.

Alibaba and longstanding competitor Tencent previously participated in a $300 million+ funding round for Zhipu in 2023. The company is attempting to bring back the cloud industry and include AI with its proprietary model, Tongyi Qianwen, into a broad business that includes entertainment.

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Biden, Kishida Secure Support from Amazon and Nvidia for $50 Million Joint AI Research Program

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As the two countries seek to enhance cooperation around the rapidly advancing technology, President Joe Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida have enlisted Amazon.com Inc. and Nvidia Corp. to fund a new joint artificial intelligence research program.

A senior US official briefed reporters prior to Wednesday’s official visit at the White House, stating that the $50 million project will be a collaborative effort between Tsukuba University outside of Tokyo and the University of Washington in Seattle. A separate collaborative AI research program between Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh and Tokyo’s Keio University is also being planned by the two nations.

The push for greater research into artificial intelligence comes as the Biden administration is weighing a series of new regulations designed to minimize the risks of AI technology, which has developed as a key focus for tech companies. The White House announced late last month that federal agencies have until the end of the year to determine how they will assess, test, and monitor the impact of government use of AI technology.

In addition to the university-led projects, Microsoft Corp. announced on Tuesday that it would invest $2.9 billion to expand its cloud computing and artificial intelligence infrastructure in Japan. Brad Smith, the president of Microsoft, met with Kishida on Tuesday. The company released a statement announcing its intention to establish a new AI and robotics lab in Japan.

Kishida, the second-largest economy in Asia, urged American business executives to invest more in Japan’s developing technologies on Tuesday.

“Your investments will enable Japan’s economic growth — which will also be capital for more investments from Japan to the US,” Kishida said at a roundtable with business leaders in Washington.

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OnePlus and OPPO Collaborate with Google to Introduce Gemini Models for Enhanced Smartphone AI

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As anticipated, original equipment manufacturers, or OEMs, are heavily integrating AI into their products. Google is working with OnePlus, OPPO, and other companies to integrate Gemini models into their smartphones. They intend to introduce the Gemini models on smartphones later this year, becoming the first OEMs to do so. Gemini models will go on sale later in 2024, as announced at the Google Cloud Next 24 event. Gemini models are designed to provide users with an enhanced artificial intelligence (AI) experience on their gadgets.

Customers in China can now create AI content on-the-go with devices like the OnePlus 12 and OPPO Find X7 thanks to OnePlus and OPPO’s Generative AI models.

The AI Eraser tool was recently made available to all OnePlus customers worldwide. This AI-powered tool lets users remove unwanted objects from their photos. For OnePlus and OPPO, AI Eraser is only the beginning.

In the future, the businesses hope to add more AI-powered features like creating original social media content and summarizing news stories and audio.

AndesGPT LLM from OnePlus and OPPO powers AI Eraser. Even though the Samsung Galaxy S24 and Google Pixel 8 series already have this feature, it is still encouraging to see OnePlus and OPPO taking the initiative to include AI capabilities in their products.

OnePlus and OPPO devices will be able to provide customers with a more comprehensive and sophisticated AI experience with the release of the Gemini models. It is important to remember that OnePlus and OPPO already power the Trinity Engine, which makes using phones incredibly smooth, and use AI and computational mathematics to enhance mobile photography.

By 2024, more original equipment manufacturers should have AI capabilities on their products. This is probably going to help Google because OEMs will use Gemini as the foundation upon which to build their features.

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Meta Explores AI-Enabled Search Bar on Instagram

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In an attempt to expand the user base for its generative AI-powered products, Meta is moving forward. The business is experimenting with inserting Meta AI into the Instagram search bar for both chat with AI and content discovery, in addition to testing the chatbot Meta AI with users in nations like India on WhatsApp.

When you type a query into the search bar, Meta AI initiates a direct message (DM) exchange in which you can ask questions or respond to pre-programmed prompts. Aravind Srinivas, CEO of Perplexity AI, pointed out that the prompt screen’s design is similar to the startup’s search screen.

Plus, it might make it easier for you to find fresh Instagram content. As demonstrated in a user-posted video on Threads, you can search for Reels related to a particular topic by tapping on a prompt such as “Beautiful Maui sunset Reels.”

Additionally, TechCrunch spoke with a few users who had the ability to instruct Meta AI to look for recommendations for Reels.

By using generative AI to surface new content from networks like Instagram, Meta hopes to go beyond text generation.

With TechCrunch, Meta verified the results of its Instagram AI experiment. But the company didn’t say whether or not it uses generative AI technology for search.

A Meta representative told TechCrunch, “We’re testing a range of our generative AI-powered experiences publicly in a limited capacity. They are under development in varying phases.”

There are a ton of posts available discussing Instagram search quality. It is therefore not surprising that Meta would want to enhance search through the use of generative AI.

Furthermore, Instagram should be easier to find than TikTok, according to Meta. In order to display results from Reddit and TikTok, Google unveiled a new perspectives feature last year. Instagram is developing a feature called “Visibility off Instagram” that could allow posts to appear in search engine results, according to reverse engineer Alessandro Paluzzi, who made this discovery earlier this week on X.

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