- Speaking at a livestream release event on Thursday, Baidu CEO Robin Li stressed that the company’s product — dubbed Ernie bot — isn’t perfect.
- Instead, he described how it would improve with users’ ability to provide feedback.
- Baidu is prioritizing initial Ernie bot access for what it calls 650 ecosystem business partners.
Men interact with a Baidu AI robot near the company logo at the headquarters in Beijing, China, April 23, 2021.
Florence Lo | Reuters
BEIJING — Chinese technology company Baidu on Thursday gave the public a glimpse into what its Chinese-language ChatGPT alternative can do, while warning of its flaws.
Speaking at a livestream release event, Baidu CEO Robin Li stressed that the company’s product — dubbed Ernie bot — isn’t perfect. Shares fell nearly 6.4% in Hong Kong amid a broader decline for Asian stocks, posting their lowest closing price since Jan. 19.
Li emphasized how the product would improve through users’ ability to give it feedback.
Baidu is prioritizing initial Ernie bot access for what it calls 650 ecosystem business partners, including some media companies, banks and auto companies. Baidu has a large enterprise cloud company and said users of its AI cloud can request access to Ernie bot’s application programming interface.
Within an hour of announcing the Ernie bot, Baidu said 30,000 business customers were on the waiting list to access the chatbot. CNBC, other media and the general public were not immediately given access.
Microsoft-backed OpenAI this week announced GPT-4, the latest version of the artificial intelligence technology behind the highly popular ChatGPT chatbot. The bot was initially released to the public for free in November, and individuals wanting access to GPT-4 capabilities must pay $20 per month.
ChatGPT can converse in a human way and generate everything from content summaries to business proposals.
While ChatGPT is free for anyone who can set up an account, people had to get on a waiting list to try out Microsoft’s Bing AI chatbot, which uses OpenAI technology, which launched last month. Some users reported a creepy experience.
Baidu’s Li said that Ernie-bot had similar problems when used enough, and that he wasn’t perfect. But he noted that the model is trained on a set of 550 billion facts.
The AI is not intended to highlight the rivalry between the US and China, but is the result of Baidu’s efforts to “change the world with technology,” Li said in Mandarin, translated by CNBC.
Baidu’s Hong Kong-traded shares are still up 12% year-to-date.
Microsoft shares are up about 11% for the year so far, while Google parent Alphabet’s Class A shares are up nearly 9%.
Stocks of major ChatGPT related technology companies
ChatGPT has sparked local interest in China despite not being officially available in the country. ChatGPT does have a Chinese-language feature, albeit not to the same level as in English.
Beijing has pushed for national self-sufficiency in technology, while maintaining censorship and increasing regulation of data.
Many Chinese companies, except Baidu, are developing similar technology.
In February, Baidu’s Li told analysts during an earnings call that the company would first integrate its version – Ernie bot – into the company’s search engine and open the product to the public in March.
Li said the company also plans to use the AI technology for content creation. Baidu supports one of China’s largest video streaming platforms, iQiyi.
It wasn’t immediately clear how Baidu’s Ernie bot and AI capabilities compare to ChatGPT’s.
OpenAI said this week that its GPT-4 can beat 90% of people on the SAT, a college entrance exam in the US.