Baidu Unveils Generative AI Ernie Bot With Pre-Recorded Videos, Disappointing Investors But Avoiding Google’s Errors
Baidu introduced its generative Ernie Bot in a series of video presentations that promised a lot of features without actually demonstrating them live. The scripted nature of the event led to a brief dip of its Hong Kong shares by nearly 10%, though planning ahead did ensure Baidu avoided a gaffe like the incorrect answer to a question produced by the Google Bard generative AI chatbot when it was first revealed last month.
Baidu Ernie Bot
Baidu CEO Robin Li introduced Ernie, which stands for Enhanced Representation through Knowledge Integration, at the event. He played several videos showing Ernie performing math, generating images and videos from text prompts, and speaking in multiple Chinese dialects. The AI performed flawlessly in the video, but investors were apparently eager to see how it would perform in the wild, leading to the stock dip. Ernie is not widely available, with only those who received invitation codes from Baidu able to interact with the bot. Companies interested in employing Ernie for enterprise purposes must apply for the chance to link their software to Baidu’s cloud platform hosting the AI model.
Li admitted that Ernie is still not perfect, which might be why the company went for videos over live demonstrations. Li said Ernie had to be released “because the market demands it.” That seems to be backed up if Baidu’s boast of 650 companies in the Ernie ecosystem and 30,000 corporate user applications are to be believed.
Despite investor disappointment, Baidu has been working toward conversational generative AI for some time. The company has engaged in AI research for all kinds of products, including a virtual human named Xijiajia capable of painting a picture of a cat upon request. Xijiajia is Baidu’s digital human ambassador, one of several such virtual beings produced by Baidu, including the “interactive virtual idol” DuXiaoxiao. Some of the demand may also be a result of restrictions on American generative AI chatbots. Chinese social media platform WeChat banned ChatGPT last year, and strict rules on deepfakes have set up a potentially tricky regulatory system for any AI that can mimic specific people’s way of talking.
“Baidu envisions a future where we join forces with all to drive the evolution of AI, empowering every individual with access to state-of-the-art productivity tools and ensuring that the benefits of these advancements are shared by all,” Li said in a statement.