Chinese search giant Baidu unveiled an upgraded version of its Ernie Bot chatbot at the Baidu World 2023 conference in Beijing.
Baidu CEO Robin Li claimed that Ernie Bot 4 was now on par with OpenAI’s GPT-4 and ran through a series of demonstrations to prove his point.
While onstage Li showed how Ernie Bot could write a martial arts novel in real time. The demo showed that the chatbot was really good at recalling details of early questions and responses from earlier chats.
Li also showed how Ernie Bot was able to solve complicated puzzles, create a poster, and even a video commercial for a new car based on a text prompt.
“Ernie Bot has completed a series of significant updates in its abilities of understanding, prompting, reasoning, and memorizing,” Li said. “Its generalized abilities are by no means inferior compared to GPT-4.”
Ernie Bot is focused on Chinese users so it works mostly in Mandarin. It can respond to English prompts but with reduced performance.
Baidu will incorporate Ernie Bot into more of its apps in addition to Baidu Drive, Baidu Maps, and its search products.
One interesting example was an integration with a digital doctor app. After scanning the QR code on a box of medicine the app was able to answer a patient’s questions about the medication.
At #BaiduWorld2023, we unveiled ERNIE 4.0, our cutting-edge foundation model, with significantly bolstered core AI capabilities. We’re excited to showcase some of our most popular apps and products, all re-built through advanced generative AI. More at ⬇️https://t.co/aRNyuolCIL
— Baidu Inc. (@Baidu_Inc) October 17, 2023
The demonstrated functionalities were impressive but claims of parity with GPT-4 are yet to be borne out by official benchmarking tests.
Investors were apparently less than impressed as Baidu’s Hong Kong shares lost 1.32%.
Ernie Bot has around 45 million users but has some way to catch up with ChatGPT, which is estimated to have around 180 million users.
Baidu and its Chinese competitors like Alibaba had a later start in the AI race but have made significant progress with homegrown AI models. There are now at least 130 Chinese LLMs which represents around 50% of the global AI models.
The improved performance of these models, language-specific performance, and a growing list of regulations will make it increasingly difficult for the likes of Meta and OpenAI to find traction for their models in China.
Last week the National Information Security Standardization Committee released additional proposed AI regulations. The Chinese regulator proposed creating a list of blacklisted sources that could not be used to train AI models.
The opaque nature of the training data for Western models will make it difficult, if not impossible, to comply with these new requirements.
However, to maintain the pace of AI development, Chinese companies will have to contend with the latest chip restrictions imposed by the US government.