Baidu unveils ERNIE Bot, its ChatGPT rival


Baidu, China’s search engine giant, has unveiled its answer to OpenAI’s ChatGPT service. It’s the latest version of the company’s ERNIE (Enhanced Representation through Knowledge Integration) Bot that it has been developing over the past decade and was first launched back in 2019. In a press event, Baidu CEO Robin Li said this version of ERNIE Bot has capabilities close to GPT-4, the latest iteration of OpenAI’s large language model released just a couple of days ago. 

The chatbot apparently has 550 billion facts in its knowledge graph, but they’re mostly focused on the Chinese market. So while it will be able to list Chinese idioms for you, it may not be able to answer as many questions for certain subjects outside the region. ERNIE Bot has the capability to answer a user with audio responses in different Chinese dialects, though, and it can also generate images and videos out of Chinese text.

During its demo at the event, the chatbot was able to summarize a Chinese sci-fi novel and give suggestions on how to continue writing the book if it were to be expanded. It was also able to name the actors in its film adaptation, compare their heights and conclude who was taller between the two of them. In another demo, it was able to suggest names for a high-tech service company catering to small and mid-size enterprise, write slogans for it and even generate a newsletter with a specified word count.

Li said that 650 companies have already signed up to use ERNIE Bot’s technology, but he also admitted that it’s not ready for a public debut. Baidu has merely unveiled it early due to market demand brought about by ChatGPT’s meteoric rise in popularity. For now, the Chinese tech giant will only grant access to those who’ve already received invites, though more companies can apply for the ability to embed the chatbot into their products via Baidu’s cloud platform.

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