Chinese tech giant Baidu has unveiled its much-anticipated artificial intelligence (AI)-powered chatbot, Ernie Bot. The company’s CEO said it was the culmination of years of hard work in the field.
The bot was not perfect, but the company is releasing it now because of market demand, Robin Li told a media conference in Beijing.
But the company’s Hong Kong-listed shares tumbled 10% as he demonstrated the bot answering questions, writing a poem, and producing a video and image with prompts.
Google’s answer to OpenAI’s ChatGPT, Bard, was met with a similar market skepticism. The company’s shares took a 9% nosedive following the news Bard gave inaccurate answers in a promotional video.
To date, 650 companies have said they will join the Ernie ecosystem. Chinese state media outlets and a Shaolin temple were among the first sign-ups to become Ernie Bot partners.
The popularity of ChatGPT, backed by Microsoft, has triggered a frenzied rush among Chinese tech giants and startups alike to develop a rival.
Baidu jumped to the forefront of the race after saying early last month it was close to completing a chatbot using its AI-driven deep-learning model, Ernie – an off-kilter acronym that is short for “Enhanced Representation Through Knowledge Integration.”
The company has touted its many years of heavy research and development in AI and deep learning as one reason it is best placed to lead the race to develop a Chinese answer to ChatGPT. Baidu’s expenses in this area in 2022 were 21.4 billion yuan ($3.1 billion), accounting for 22% of revenue.
Baidu plans to use Ernie Bot to revolutionize its search engine, by far the most dominant in China, and to increase efficiency in the cloud, smart cars, and household appliances, among other mainstream businesses.
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