Baidu Releases Generative AI Chatbot Ernie Bot to General Public in China With Government Approval
Baidu has launched its Ernie Bot generative AI chatbot to anyone in China following approval from government regulators. Ernie Bot debuted in March, but only to a limited audience. Baidu has embedded Ernie Bot on its website and mobile apps, allowing users to converse with the AI and generate synthetic media like text, images, and video.
Baidu Ernie Bot
Ernie Bot passed the million user milestone in less than 24 hours, according to Baidu, hinting at pent-up local demand. And that’s with the mobile app requiring a Chinese phone number to register. The release follows Baidu and other Chinese companies submitting security assessments and demonstrating compliance with China’s new generative AI regulations. Authorities mandated training data and outputs align with government-approved values, leading to events like Apple pulling over 100 apps from its Chinese App Store for not meeting the rules.
China’s restrictions around AI content and nationalism in tech add complexity for local firms. But Baidu hopes familiarity with its search engine and alignment with government priorities provide advantages. For Baidu, Ernie Bot represents both a milestone and a starting point. As the first locally developed conversational AI released, Ernie Bot places Baidu at the forefront of Chinese firms competitively responding to ChatGPT. But keeping pace with Microsoft and Google’s rapid model iteration will require massive further investment. And it faces plenty of potential local competition from the likes of Alibaba and Huawei.
An initial Ernie Bot demo relied on videos, and Baidu drew criticism for its cautious approach at the time. That said, Baidu expects to improve the foundational Ernie 3.5 model underlying Ernie Bot by collecting feedback and other data from users. The company plans further AI products leveraging abilities like reasoning and memory alongside chat. Ernie Bot aims to showcase Baidu’s prowess in natural language processing, as ChatGPT did for OpenAI.
“Making Ernie Bot available to hundreds of millions of Internet users, Baidu will collect massive valuable real-world human feedback,” Baidu CEO Robin Li said in a statement. “This will not only help improve Baidu’s foundation model but also iterate Ernie Bot on a much faster pace, ultimately leading to a superior user experience.”