April 20, 2024

TikTok owner ByteDance quietly launched 4 generative AI apps powered by OpenAI’s GPT

The websites and policies for the new apps Cici AI, ChitChop, Coze, and BagelBell do not mention that they were created by ByteDance.

By Emily Baker-WhiteForbes Staff

TikTok’s Chinese parent company ByteDance has quietly launched four new generative AI apps for users outside of China. Forbes has learned. The apps, called Cici AI, Coze, ChitChop and BagelBell, were launched in the last three months and together have millions of downloads.

Cici AI, ChitChop, and Coze are bot creation platforms that allow users to create and share their own chatbots. BagelBell generates plot and text for fictional stories that change based on readers’ choices. But ByteDance didn’t build the big underlying language models that power them. Instead, the apps are based on OpenAI’s GPT technology, accessed through a Microsoft Azure license, according to ByteDance spokesperson Jodi Seth.

On the new apps’ websites and in their terms of service, there is no mention of ByteDance, whose ownership is reported here for the first time. Three of them are run by Spring (SG) Pte. Ltd., a new ByteDance subsidiary, and the fourth is run by Poligon Pte., a ByteDance subsidiary that has published erotic web novels and video games for ByteDance in the past.

Cici and ChitChop focus primarily on entertainment and offer bots based on fictional characters and romantic partners, while Coze offers bots aimed at simplifying tasks in the workplace. Cici is the most popular application so far, with more than 10 million downloads, according to the Google Play store.

The applications, combined with the company’s launch of an AI tool for generating short-form videos and reported attempts to build an AI imager similar to Midjourney and Dall-E, appear to be part of the ByteDance’s efforts to take on its competitors in generative artificial intelligence. space. Facebook launched its own line of celebrity-based chatbots last September, and Snap brought an AI chatbot to Snapchat in April. All the big tech giants are working to develop their own generative AI offerings: Microsoft is creating AI assistants for many of its software tools thanks to its $10 billion partnership with OpenAI, Google launches new Gemini language model to compete with GPT-4 and Amazon integrates generative AI products into its Alexa smart speaker.

Of the four new ByteDance apps, only one, Coze, is currently available in the US and none are available in the EU. It is common for tech giants to test their products first in smaller markets with less regulatory scrutiny before expanding to the US and EU. When asked about ByteDance’s plans for the apps, Seth described them as “still in the testing phase” and declined to share more details about the company’s plans for them. It’s unclear whether these apps would or could ever be integrated into TikTok, although earlier this year ByteDance ran a test that integrated an AI chatbot called “Tako” into the TikTok app.

ByteDance has a history of generously releasing test apps and then shutting down those that don’t work. Before TikTok debuted in the US, the company launched (and eventually discontinued) a trivia app, a funny gifs app, and a news aggregation app. Its offerings around the world continue to grow and change; Current offerings include a WhatsApp competitor in Africa, a Spotify competitor in Southeast Asia, and a Twitter competitor that was recently discontinued in Brazil.

While these four generative AI apps focus on the Beijing company’s international markets, ByteDance also launched generative AI apps in China, starting with AI chatbot app Dou Bao. The app launched in August, after ByteDance received government approval. Chinese regulations require bots launched in China to “adhere to the core socialist values” of the Chinese state, which often means following government censorship guidelines.

It is not surprising that ByteDance is also launching generative AI applications in Western markets, given the recent surge in demand for bots and ByteDance’s huge success with TikTok. But the move could inspire future scrutiny from regulators, already concerned that the Chinese government could rely on ByteDance employees to collect private information on foreigners, or use the company’s control over their information diets to send them messages. pro-China. People often trust bots with sensitive personal information, making them a potentially rich source of valuable data, and bots are notoriously unable to explain why they give the answers they do, making them a potentially effective conduit for covert influence.

The four new ByteDance apps use privacy policy language (also present in other ByteDance app policies) noting that the apps may share user information with other “entities within our corporate group.” ByteDance spokesperson Seth confirmed that ByteDance employees in China can access user data from these apps, subject to the company’s access controls and approval processes.

In test conversations, Coze and Chitchop gave useful descriptions of the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre and other topics subject to Chinese government censorship, although both robots struggled with (non-ideological) hallucinations. Because BagelBell creates fictional stories, we did not test his historical knowledge, but we asked him to create a story about Xi Jinping frolicking in flower fields with Winnie the Pooh. He obliged.

When Forbes I tried to create an account to test Cici, which is designed to look exactly like DouBao, the app repeatedly crashed. Consequently, we were unable to address it.

Regulators have also expressed concern about the Chinese government using AI to steal intellectual property from foreign companies. In December, The Verge reported that ByteDance had been using OpenAI’s large language models to create a competitive model of its own, a clear violation of OpenAI’s terms of service. OpenAI subsequently suspended ByteDance’s access to its API.

ByteDance spokesperson Seth said ByteDance is using OpenAI through a license to Microsoft Azure, which gives it access to GPT. OpenAI did not respond to a request for comment by press time.

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