- This was reported by the CEO of the manufacturer Baidu, Robin Li, during a company earnings call.
- The Ernie bot will be incorporated into Baidu’s search engine, which was initially launched in 2019 and has more than 100 billion parameters.
- However, the company is not expected to expand its share in China, as it is already a leader in that market.
Baidu, the technology company whose search engine is the leader in China, announced this week the launch of its artificial intelligence product Ernie bot in March, which will compete with Open AI’s U.S.-based ChatGPT.
Since its emergence, ChatGPT’s numbers have skyrocketed projecting huge business growth and massification potential. To the point that AI fever among users and investors seems to be replacing that of the metaverse.
ChatGPT has 22 functions ranging from speaking in an almost human tone to writing articles or business proposals. This product is not yet available in China, at least not officially, although it has aroused great interest. Nor is it available in some Latin American countries.
Upcoming launch on the horizon
But already several Chinese companies, including Baidu, announced that they will soon launch similar technology. During a company earnings call, Baidu CEO Robin Li explained what’s coming. “We will first incorporate the Ernie bot into Baidu search and open it to the public in March.”
The company claims to be working on “a revolutionary version of Baidu search based on the Ernie bot that incorporates generative artificial intelligence into our search algorithm as well as content creation, and we are adding interactive features,” Li said.
He added that users of the search engine “will soon be able to interact directly with the new large generative language model.” In China, Google is banned and Baidu’s search engine dominates the market.
According to Statcounter data from January, Google is still the world’s largest search engine, followed by Baidu which takes less than 1% share, but is limited almost exclusively to the Chinese market.
ChatGPT vs Ernie Bot
Although no information is yet available on the capabilities of the Ernie bot, it is believed that it will replicate ChatGPT, which has been making waves around the world.
Baidu’s Ernie project was initially launched in 2019 and boasts “with more than 100 billion parameters,” Li explained. The search engine is specially designed for Chinese culture. “It is capable of handling billions of search requests from users and other applications every day,” he added
In artificial intelligence, parameters are used to measure how much a certain model has learned. For example, GPT-3, which preceded today’s ChatGPT, is trained with 175 billion parameters, notes a Stanford University report published in 2021.
According to the report, ChatGPT’s predecessor at the time took a giant leap in capacity over the 1.5 billion parameters contained in GPT-2.
For the time being, we will have to wait for the release of the Ernie bot to make the capability comparison between the two products. So far OpenAI has not commented on what it knows about its Chinese competitor.
While artificial intelligence promises to revolutionize many areas of work by making tasks easier to perform, the quality of the content generated by these new tools is still in question.
“Users have shared results that they find politically biased, offensive or objectionable,” OpenAI revealed this month on its blog when referring to ChatGPT. The U.S. startup has promised to continue working to improve the content generated by its flagship product.
Analysts point out that artificial intelligence in China will encounter many obstacles to compete on better terms. Especially due to the Chinese government’s crackdown on the control of data and information received by the public.
On that point Chat GPT has an advantage over Baidu’s Ernie bot. Xi Jinping’s government is keen to make China technologically self-sufficient by favoring hard technology.
Chinese regulators have banned other tech companies such as Alibaba’s Tencent and Ant Group from offering access to ChatGPT’s services on their respective platforms, directly or indirectly, Nikkei Asia said citing sources.
Moreover, the article added that Chinese tech companies will have to require prior approval from regulators in order to launch AI services similar to ChatGPT.
Although the Nikkei report did not specify which regulators it was referring to specifically. Neither China’s cybersecurity regulator nor tech giants Baidu, Tencent and Ant, commented on this report, CNBC said.
In China, it is common for companies to have to seek approval from regulators before they can operate in sectors deemed strategic or sensitive by the government.
AI monetization remains unclear
Regarding AI monetization, companies are still unclear on how it will work. Although they anticipate that it will be a radical transformation for the technology sector, as is the case with ChatGPT.
As for the integration of the Ernie bot into Baidu’s search engine, it is not expected to help the company expand its share of the Chinese market, because it already dominates it, said John Freeman, vice president of equity research at CFRA. “It’s not as important to them as it is to Alphabet [Google’s parent],” he added.
In making an assessment of Baidu’s capabilities, Freeman said he was very “impressed” with the speed with which Baidu’s algorithms work. Especially when asked to transform text into video.
The Ernie bot will be integrated into various functions on Baidu’s platform and across all the companies that orbit around the Chinese tech giant, including electric car startup Jidu.
AI possibilities at Baidu
“ChatGPT types of features could potentially become a new traffic entry point for Internet users and thus expand the size of the search market,” Baidu’s Li commented on Wednesday.
He added that “meanwhile, it will also help our advertisers, content creators and marketers.” Baidu will be able to “accumulate more short videos on our platform over time” from AI-generated content. “And a direct benefit would be to increase video viewership and ad revenue.”
Last year the company’s total revenue suffered a 1% drop to 123.68 billion yuan, or about $17.93 billion, Baidu said in a statement.
However, the company’s operating margin grew, despite this loss, Freeman said. “That tells you intrinsically that it’s a really healthy business. These companies are driven if we see a change in the environment,” he concluded.
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