Baidu, the Chinese tech giant, has made a significant move by introducing ERNIE 4.0, their latest artificial intelligence chatbot. In a press release, Baidu explicitly positioned ERNIE 4.0 as a direct competitor to OpenAI’s ChatGPT, the latest version GPT-4. During their annual flagship event, Baidu’s CEO, Robin Li, confidently stated that “it is not inferior in any aspect to GPT-4”, making it a strong contender in the AI chatbot arena.
Onstage, Li demonstrated how the bot could quickly make a car commercial, solve tough math problems, and come up with the storyline for a martial arts novel from scratch. The bot mainly operates in Mandarin Chinese but can also handle English, though not as well.
Li mentioned that these demonstrations showed that the bot has made significant improvements in understanding questions, creating complex responses, and remembering information.
While generating ideas for the novel, the bot was able to remember what it had been told before and create complex storylines with conflicts and characters, according to Li.
He said, “We used to complain that AI wasn’t very smart, But today, it understands almost everything you say, and in many cases, it understands what you’re saying better than your friends or your colleagues.”
China’s Turning Point
Charlie Dai, vice president and research director of technology at Forrester, mentioned that Baidu claims to be the first vendor in China that can perform at the level of GPT-4. While more evidence is needed to confirm this, he’s cautiously optimistic due to China’s long-term investments in AI.
In contrast to a previous presentation that didn’t impress investors because it was pre-recorded, Baidu’s CEO, Li, demonstrated the bot’s abilities in real-time. However, this didn’t excite investors much, as Baidu’s shares in Hong Kong fell by 1.4% after the presentation.
The company based in Beijing introduced ERNIE Bot in March and later made it available to the public in August.
The latest version will initially be rolled out to users by invitation, as mentioned by Li. However, the company hasn’t provided a specific date for when it will be accessible to the general public.
ERNIE Bot quickly gained popularity, amassing over 45 million users and even reaching the top position on Chinese app stores at one point, according to the company. In comparison, ChatGPT, which was released in November of the previous year, had over 100 million users in its first two months, as reported by Goldman Sachs.
Challenges from Local Rivals
Baidu encounters competition domestically in China from companies like Alibaba and SenseTime, which have showcased their versions of ChatGPT-like tools.
Baidu asserts that its offering distinguishes itself through its superior understanding of Chinese queries and its capacity to generate diverse response formats, including video and audio.
In contrast, GPT-4, developed by OpenAI, can analyze images but, at present, can solely generate text responses.
Dai acknowledged that Baidu is a significant player in the Chinese market. However, he stressed that the competition in this field is just getting started, and major AI technology companies like Alibaba, Huawei, JD Cloud, SenseTime, and Tencent all have the potential to become leaders in this space.
Some critics argue that the new AI offerings from Chinese companies might worsen the existing competition between the United States and China in emerging technologies. Li has tried to distance the company from such comparisons, stating that their platform is not meant to add to tensions between China and the United States.
Baidu has previously pointed out that ERNIE can outperform ChatGPT in specific situations, asserting that their bot achieved higher scores than OpenAI’s on certain academic exams.
On Tuesday, the Chinese company also shared that it had upgraded its various services using the latest improvements from ERNIE. Baidu’s popular search engine can now provide more accurate search results with the help of this tool. Furthermore, the company’s mobile mapping app can now assist users in booking services like taxis, according to Li.
This means that Baidu is at the forefront of modernizing most of its products with AI technology, becoming the first major Chinese tech company to achieve this, as Dai pointed out.
Baidu’s launch of ERNIE 4.0 as a strong rival to OpenAI’s GPT-4 is a big step in chatbot development. During the presentation, Baidu demonstrated how it has improved in understanding language, creating content, and problem-solving. The competition in China’s tech industry is heating up, with companies like Alibaba and Tencent vying for the top spot.
These developments also raise questions about the technology competition between the United States and China, even though Baidu insists it’s not about that. Baidu’s efforts to integrate AI into its services are making its products more advanced, and it’s one of the first Chinese tech companies to do so, which sets it apart.