In a strategic move into the burgeoning field of generative AI, Meituan, the Chinese food delivery behemoth, has unveiled "Wow," an AI social interaction app, marking its foray into a domain increasingly populated by tech giants.
According to official records, "Wow" is owned by Meituan’s affiliates and has successfully completed its registration process, now available across multiple app stores in China. Sources close to the development reveal that "Wow" is an internal venture of Meituan, currently in the throes of advanced research and development to enhance its capabilities.
Meituan’s entry into generative AI distinguishes itself from its peers in the Chinese tech landscape. While other major players have been quick to showcase their generative AI models, Meituan’s strategy is notably more measured and distinctive.
The company seems intent on leveraging generative AI to streamline its existing business operations, simultaneously exploring new avenues for growth fueled by this cutting-edge technology. This approach underscores Meituan’s commitment to innovation, balancing the pursuit of new technological frontiers with the pragmatic enhancement of its core services.
The rise of ChatGPT in 2022 has unveiled the immense potential of generative AI, sparking a competitive race among China’s leading tech giants. This race is centered on leveraging this innovative technology as a key driver for growth. Baidu has already stepped into the arena with its public release of generative models, while Tencent and Alibaba are actively integrating generative AI into their expansive ecosystems.
Wang Xing, Meituan’s founder and CEO, has shown a deep optimism about the prospects of generative AI. Recognizing its significance at the early stages of ChatGPT’s popularity, he identified generative AI as a crucial technological advancement and a golden opportunity. In response, Meituan has boldly entered this domain, scaling up its algorithm team and creating a specialized division dedicated to the commercial application of generative AI.
Meituan’s foray into generative AI is exemplified by its first public product in this field, the Wow app. This strategic move is not just a mere coincidence. Social interaction has emerged as a key application for generative AI in the consumer market. Major players like Baidu, Tencent Music, and Weibo have already launched their AI-driven social applications.
The surge in AI’s role in social interaction is attributed to its ability to act as a binding and catalyzing agent within any digital ecosystem. Tech companies are increasingly recognizing the potential of generative AI to give birth to new social platforms, each vying to capture this next vital user connection. With the Wow app, Meituan seems to be exploring beyond its core food delivery business, aiming to carve out a new niche in the user engagement landscape through generative AI.
Of course, Meituan is utilizing generative AI across its expansive business empire. With 600 million active users and 7 million cooperative merchants, Meituan has a solid foundation for training generative AI. Its ecosystem offers multi-dimensional data on user behavior, transaction data, and diverse business-related data. This data not only helps in accurately depicting user needs and behaviors but also forms the robust basis for training AI models. Meituan is reportedly planning to release several self-developed AI models soon.
Meituan has also invested in generative AI startups to boost its capabilities. It invested in Zhipu AI, an generative AI startup affiliated with Tsinghua University, and currently holds a 10.42% stake in the company.
Wang Xing personally participated in the Series A funding of an AI startup called "Light Years Away," co-founded by Meituan’s co-founder Wang Huiwen, and served as a director. Following Wang Huiwen’s departure due to illness, Meituan invested RMB2.065 billion yuan to acquire this company, continuing to support its research.