Heads of Alibaba’s DAMO Academy take on AI development

As ChatGPT continues to stimulate large-scale discussions and attract a growing user base, Chinese tech giants are exploring the development of similarly sized language models through generative AI. On March 16, Work Bonus reported that after a series of staff changes in 2022, Alibaba’s DAMO Academy has now set up three labs dedicated to developing large language models.

Zhou Jingren, Vice Dean of DAMO Academy, leads Alibaba’s major language model development project, Tongyi. Zhou leads research in AI, machine intelligence, intelligent computing, XR and urban brain lab.

Currently, the development of natural language processing, image processing and computing power are top priority areas for large Chinese companies. Accordingly, the Language Technology Laboratory, the Visual Intelligence Laboratory and the Intelligent Computing Laboratory are the three main teams of DAMO Academy working towards this goal.

DAMO Academy’s Language Technology Lab has a sizeable staff dedicated to the development of natural language processing (NLP) technologies, conversational technologies, machine translation, and other related applications. Si Luo, the lab’s former head, has since left his position at Alibaba, but insiders have denied rumors of his departure to start a new company.

Huang Fei, the current director of the Language Technology Lab, is a graduate of Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Computer Science and has previously worked at IBM and Facebook. He is co-author of over 40 papers in leading conferences and journals related to natural language processing and artificial intelligence. Since joining Alibaba, his team has focused on visual text understanding, translation algorithms, multilingual NLP applications, intelligent dialogue and service technology, natural language base technology and application algorithms.

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The Visual Intelligence Laboratory was previously headed by Xu Yinghui, who holds a Ph.D. from Toyohashi University of Technology in Japan. The current head of the lab, Zhao Deli, graduated from Shanghai Jiaotong University and previously worked for Taiwanese consumer electronics company HTC, smartphone maker Xiaomi and Microsoft Research Asia. Zhao’s expertise in fundamental research into machine vision and machine learning algorithms makes him a valuable asset to the lab. Currently, Zhao mainly focuses on model generation, multi-modal learning and base model pre-training.

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While Zhou Jingren is the official head of the Intelligent Computing Laboratory, the lab is actually headed by Zhou Chang, who graduated from Fudan University in 2012 with a major in Computer Science and Technology and holds a Ph.D. in Computer Software and Theory from Peking University in 2017. He joined Alibaba through campus recruitment and focuses on recommender systems and multimodal base models.

This month, many meetings took place in the DAMO Academy. With the launch of OpenAI’s GPT-4 and Baidu’s Ernie Bot, Alibaba faces significant competitive pressures.