China is getting its own equivalent of OpenAI’s blockbuster AI chatbot ChatGPT, courtesy of the country’s largest internet search engine Baidu, CNBC reports.
Co-founder and CEO Robin Li said Wednesday that the company would launch ChatGPT-style Ernie Bot and make it available to the public in March.
Baidu intends to first integrate Ernie Bot into its search engine, which the company believes would draw more users and increase market share “profitably,” according to Li during a conference call. The bot will then be made broadly available to the company’s intelligent driving unit and business partners. The company expects “more and more business owners and entrepreneurs” to build their models and apps on Baidu’s AI Cloud.
“Recently, with users raving about ChatGPT, large language models (LLMs) using generative AI have created a megatrend that will revolutionize many businesses,” Li said. “Baidu is well positioned to capitalize on the imminent inflection point” in artificial intelligence.
Baidu and other Chinese tech businesses announced the forthcoming launch of a ChatGPT-style bot this month after the success of Microsoft-backed ChatGPT and Google’s AI chatbot Bard.
Ernie Bot, which may not be a chatbot at first but rather an embedded feature of Baidu products, is built on technology that the company claims have been in development since 2019.
“We have been working on LLM for a few years. We launched Ernie in March 2019 and have scaled it up with well over 100 billion parameters,” Li said, adding that it receives training via several billion user search requests and other applications daily.
In the call, Li stated that Baidu’s Ernie Bot is “more suited” to the Chinese language and market than models established elsewhere.
“It is not only about language but also about understanding Chinese culture,” he said. “Ernie 3.0 is already a very localized AI foundation model for the China market, which means the generative large language model we are working on right now will be more suitable in China.”
There is quite a lot we don’t know about Baidu’s chatbot service, but with Baidu’s stock up more than 5% since the announcement, there’s certainly plenty of enthusiasm among investors for a Chinese ChatGPT alternative.
However, given China’s walled-off and strictly governed internet landscape, it’ll be interesting to see what shape the chatbot eventually takes. It’s pretty unlikely that it’ll be trained on the same data that OpenAI’s ChatGPT was.