China’s Baidu Prepares ChatGPT-Style Service

Chinese search engine provider Baidu has said it is preparing to make a ChatGPT-style service called Ernie Bot available to the public, as tech giants enter a fierce battle over so-called generative artificial intelligence.

The company said it was aiming to complete internal testing of Ernie, or “Enhanced Representation through Knowledge Integration”, in March before making the chatbot available to the public.

The disclosure set the company’s Hong Kong shares rocketing 15 percent on Tuesday, while its Nasdaq shares were up 10 percent in early US trading, in a measure of the current investor frenzy around the subject.

ChatGPT, which can generate text such as essays, poetry or jokes in response to natural-language prompts, gained 100 million users in its first two months of operation after launching last November, according to UBS, making it the fastest-growing consumer app in history.

AI frenzy

China’s Alibaba also joined in the fray by publishing a user guide on how to add ChatGPT to its enterprise collaboration tool DingTalk, but cautioned that users “shall comply with the nation’s laws and regulations” since ChatGPT is not officially available in China.

Chinese mainland investors have sent AI-related shares surging in recent days, with those of Hanwang Technologies, which makes products that enable intelligent interactions, rising by their daily limit of 10 percent for the seventh consecutive session on Tuesday, Reuters reported.

TRS Information Technology and Cloudwalk Technology have also seen significant share price rises since the end of the Lunar New Year holidays in China.

Microsoft and Google are holding duelling AI-related press conferences this week, on Tuesday and Wednesday respectively, with both expected to integrate  ChatGPT-style features into their search engines.

Competition

Microsoft has backed ChatGPT creator OpenAI since 2019 and sparked the current market interest after announcing last week it was investing billions into the company.

Google has responded over the past few days with a substantial investment into OpenAI competitor Anthropic and the announcement it was preparing to offer a ChatGPT-style service called Bard to the general public.

Separately, Reuters reported that another OpenAI competitor called Cohere – which also has close ties to Google – is in talks to raise hundreds of millions of dollars in a funding round that could value it at more than $6 billion (£5bn).

Matthew Broersma

Matt Broersma is a long standing tech freelance, who has worked for Ziff-Davis, ZDnet and other leading publications

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