China’s AI unicorn SenseTime has unveiled its cutting-edge rival to hugely popular OpenAI’s ChatGPT.

Chinese artificial intelligence (AI) firm SenseTime, backed by investors such as Alibaba Group Holdings and Japan’s Softbank Group Corp, has seen its shares surge by as much as 11%, as reported by Reuters.

SenseTime was established in 2014 by a team of researchers from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. The company’s primary area of expertise lies in facial recognition technology and computer vision. SenseTime aims to develop AI-powered solutions to cater to various sectors like finance, retail, and security. The company has garnered significant investment from various renowned firms, such as Alibaba, Qualcomm, and SoftBank, and is recognized as one of the world’s most valuable AI unicorns.

SenseTime is part of China’s “four little dragons” of the AI sector, along with Cloudwalk Technology, Megvii, and Yitu.

The company’s shares rose to HK$3.70, although they remained below the initial public offering price of HK$3.85 in December 2021.

On Monday (April 10), SenseTime unveiled its SenseNova suite of large AI models, which focus on key capabilities like computer vision, natural language processing, and AI-generated content, according to a South China Morning Post (SCMP) report.

CEO and co-founder Xu Li stated that AI bots in China would initially develop in the business-to-business (B2B) sector before expanding into the business-to-customer (B2C) market. Xu Li said, “We need to improve our technological capabilities and fine-tune services to better commercialize AI.”

As reported by Reuters, SenseTime showcased several AI products during a live demonstration, including a chatbot called “SenseChat,” which is built on the company’s SenseNova model developed over the past five years. Xu Li demonstrated SenseChat’s capabilities: “writing an email and telling a story about a cat catching a fish when prompted by questions, as well as scripting computer codes.” The company’s new offerings include an image generator, a digital avatar creation platform, and complementary 3D modeling tools.

The SCMP report revealed that SenseChat could understand multiple conversation rounds and process extensive texts, offering an experience similar to OpenAI’s ChatGPT. E-commerce operators and video game developers are among SenseTime’s potential clients.

SCMP says that Chinese tech giants Baidu and Alibaba Group Holding have also introduced their large language models (LLMs) in response to OpenAI’s ChatGPT. Baidu’s invitation-only Ernie Bot and Alibaba Cloud’s Tongyi Qianwen, designed for corporate clients, are among the recent entrants to the AI chatbot market.