Shares fall after ChatGPT Ernie bot reveals
- During a live-streamed release event on Thursday, Baidu CEO Robin Li emphasized that the company’s product — called Ernie bot — isn’t perfect.
- Instead, he described how it would improve through users’ ability to give it feedback.
- Baidu is prioritizing initial Ernie bot access for what it calls 650 ecosystem business partners.
Men interact with a Baidu AI robot near the company logo at its headquarters in Beijing, China on April 23, 2021.
Florence Lo | Reuters
BEIJING – Chinese technology company Baidu on Thursday gave the public a look at what its Chinese-language ChatGPT alternative can do, while warning of its imperfections.
During a live-streamed release event, Baidu CEO Robin Li emphasized that the company’s product — called Ernie bot — isn’t perfect. Shares fell nearly 6.4% in Hong Kong, amid a broader slide for Asian stocks, and had their lowest close since Jan. 19.
Li emphasized how the product would be improved through users’ ability to give it feedback.
Baidu is prioritizing initial Ernie bot access for what it calls 650 ecosystem business partners, which include some media companies, banks and car companies. Baidu has a large enterprise cloud business and said users of its AI cloud can apply for access to Ernie bot’s application programming interface.
Within an hour of the Ernie bot announcement, Baidu said 30,000 business customers had signed up to the waiting list for access to the chatbot. CNBC, other media and the mass public were not immediately given access.
Microsoft-backed OpenAI this week announced GPT-4, the latest version of the artificial intelligence technology behind the wildly popular ChatGPT chatbot. The bot was initially released to the public for free in November, and individuals who want to access GPT-4 features must pay $20 a month.
ChatGPT is able to speak in a human-like manner and generate everything from content summaries to business proposals.
While ChatGPT is free for anyone to set up an account, people had to join a waiting list to try out Microsoft’s Bing AI chatbot – which uses OpenAI technology – which launched last month. Some users reported a scary experience.
Baidu’s Li said that the Ernie bot had similar problems if it was used enough, and that it was not perfect. But he noted that the model is trained on a set of 550 billion facts.
AI is not intended to highlight US-China rivalry, but the result of Baidu’s efforts to “change the world with technology,” Li said in Mandarin, as translated by CNBC.
Baidu’s Hong Kong-traded shares are still up 12% for the year so far.
Microsoft shares are up about 11% for the year so far, while Google parent Alphabet’s Class A shares are up nearly 9%.
Major ChatGPT-related technology company stocks
ChatGPT has caught local interest in China, despite not being officially available in the country. ChatGPT has a Chinese-language feature, but not at the same level as in English.
Beijing has pushed for national self-sufficiency in technology, while maintaining censorship and increasing regulation of data.
Many Chinese companies, apart from Baidu, are developing similar technology.
In February, Baidu’s Li told analysts on an earnings call that the company would first enter its version — the Ernie bot — into the company’s search engine and open the product to the public in March.
Li said the company also planned to use the AI technology to create content. Baidu supports one of China’s major video streaming platforms, iQiyi.
It was not immediately clear how Baidu’s Ernie bot and AI capabilities compared to ChatGPT’s.
OpenAI said this week that GPT-4 can beat 90% of people on the SAT, an entrance exam in the US