The launch of Ernie Bot
On March 16, Baidu CEO Robin Li presented the company’s new large language model, Ernie Bot, in Beijing. The chatbot can solve math questions, write marketing copy, answer questions about Chinese literature, and generate multimedia responses.
The release was planned for months but was overshadowed by the unexpected release of OpenAI’s GPT-4, which set a high benchmark for Ernie Bot.
Ernie Bot performs well on tasks specific to Chinese culture, such as explaining a historical fact or writing a traditional poem. The chatbot’s multimodal output feature is its highlight, offering illustration, text-to-speech in a Chinese dialect, and video editing and subtitling capabilities.
The Chinese public has been looking for a ChatGPT alternative, but Ernie Bot has only been made available to a select group of Chinese creators. Companies can apply for API access, but Baidu has not said when the technology will be available for consumers.
The presentation of Ernie Bot felt rushed, with pre-recorded sessions and repeated statements that the model was not perfect. Baidu’s stock price dropped by 6.4% after the release, and there were disappointed reactions on social media.
Li acknowledged the imperfections of Ernie Bot but said the market demands its release.
How does Ernie Bot compare to others?
Chinese researchers and companies have developed a few ChatGPT-style bots, but none have succeeded. Fudan University researchers released MOSS, which broke down within a day of launch, and MiniMax’s Inspo chatbot has been suspected of repackaging OpenAI’s GPT-3.5 model.
However, Baidu has been anticipated to be the first Chinese company to compete with ChatGPT. Baidu has released Ernie 3.0, a GPT-3 equivalent, and Ernie-ViLG, a powerful text-to-image model. Baidu’s advantages over its competitors include its AI computing chip, Kunlun, and access to Chinese language training material from its various platforms.
Ernie Bot is trained on vast data, including trillions of web pages, tens of billions of search and image data, and hundreds of billions of daily voice data. During the launch, Baidu’s CEO, Robin Li, compared Baidu to big tech firms in the West, stating that Baidu was the first among international tech giants to develop a ChatGPT alternative internally and that Microsoft only uses OpenAI access. At the same time, Google, Meta, and Amazon have not released a product of the same level.