Chinese tech giant Baidu said on Tuesday it will finish internal testing in March for a ChatGPT alternative called “Ernie Bot”.
Baidu said it will be able to perform language generation, language understanding and text-to-image generation. The company’s Hong Kong-listed shares shot up 15% on Tuesday.
Just two months after its launch, ChatGPT – which can generate articles, essays, jokes and even poetry in response to prompts – has been rated the fastest-growing consumer app in history.
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It has prompted many tech firms to double down on the heavily hyped generative AI technology, which until recently existed more in the background than as a solid contributor to the bottom line.
A flurry of Chinese AI stocks also rallied, as the global frenzy around the Microsoft-backed chatbot sensation ChatGPT spurred speculative bets on the new technology.
Google owner Alphabet Inc said on Monday it would launch a chatbot service and more AI for its search engine, while Microsoft plans its own AI reveal on Tuesday, underscoring growing rivalry to lead a new wave of computing.
Baidu, which is China’s answer to the Google search engine, joined the frenzy on Tuesday.
It said Ernie，or “Enhanced Representation through Knowledge Integration”, is a large AI-powered language model introduced in 2019 that has gradually grown to be able to perform tasks such as understanding language, language generation, and text-to-image generation.
A person familiar with the matter said last week that Baidu was planning to launch such a service in March.
The person said Baidu aims to make the service available as a standalone application and gradually merge it into its search engine by incorporating chatbot-generated results when users make search requests.
ChatGPT and key Google services are not available in China, although some users have found workarounds to access such tools.
Beijing-based Baidu has been a first mover in China on other tech trends.
The company has been investing heavily in AI technology, including in cloud services, chips and autonomous driving, as it looks to diversify its revenue sources.
- Reuters, with additional editing from Alfie Habershon
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