Baidu, China’s largest search engine, demonstrated its artificial intelligence-powered chatbot Ernie -- its rival to OpenAI’s ChatGPT technology and Google's Bard -- on Thursday during a livestreamed press conference held to show off its capabilities.
Baidu Chief Executive Robin Li said on Thursday that Ernie -- “Wenxin Yiyan” in Chinese -- is the result of “decades of Baidu’s hard work and efforts.”
But on Thursday, as millions of people tuned in to the event, it wasn’t clear whether Baidu’s chatbot could compete with ChatGPT.
Li stood beside an open chat screen, narrating questions that had earlier been typed into the chatbot. He acknowledged that the company was only showing a demo of the technology that it had prepared earlier. Li said some users would soon be able to test Ernie, according to the Financial Times, but did not provide a timeline for a full public rollout.
The company will initially roll out the bot in a limited public release to business partners.
Online discussion noted that the bot performed better in Chinese than in English -- and that it still struggles with questions that contain logical errors, although it can identify when something is wrong.
At the end of the 45-minute demonstration, the disappointment became visible in live comments posted by many of the 2 million people watching on the WeChat social media app.
Another disappointment is that Baidu did not demonstrate Ernie’s capabilities live, but did so through a series of slides. The chatbot also lacks functions unveiled in the follow-up to Chat GPT, GPT-4, such as the ability to generate text in response to an image.
The demonstration also comes on the same day that Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella will host a virtual conference on how artificial intelligence will reinvent productivity at work.