Baidu ERNIE Bot, the ChatGPT alternative for China

Created by the giant Baidu and first unveiled in 2019, ERNIE Bot (Enhanced Representation through Knowledge Integration) is reappearing in an improved version that should offer an alternative to the ChatGPT service.

According to statements provided by CEO Robin Li, ERNIE Bot incorporates artificial intelligence technologies developed by Baidu over the past 10 years, giving it capabilities close to the ChatGPT-4 level, the latest version of AI developed by OpenAI and Microsoft.

According to the description provided by Baidu, the chatbot runs on a database of 550 billion benchmarks/knowledge, largely centered on the specific Chinese market. Thus, ERNIE will probably respond very well to Chinese consumer expectations, but will most likely be confused by questions asked in languages other than Mandarin, or on topics beyond its geographic area of interest. In contrast, the ERNIE Bot has the ability to respond to a user with audio answers in various Chinese dialects and can also generate images and videos from Chinese text.

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During the live demonstration, the chatbot was able to summarize a Chinese science fiction novel and offer suggestions on how the story could be continued/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 demonstration, ERNIE Bot was able to suggest names for a technology company that caters to small and medium-sized businesses, write slogans for it and even generate a newsletter with a specified number of words.

Baidu’s CEO said 650 companies have already signed up to try the ERNIE Bot, but acknowledged that the service is not yet ready for a public debut. In other words, the announcement is more of a PR exercise, designed to distract local companies from ChatGPT by promising them a solution better suited to the specifics of the Chinese market.

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