Baidu Ernie, China's ChatGPT competitor, is off to a rocky start.
After the buzzy presentation of GPT-4 and the news of Microsoft 365's AI upgrade, China's largest search engine, Baidu, unveiled its Ernie Bot.
Since ChatGPT stunned the world, Baidu has been viewed as the most likely Chinese contender to create an alternative to the OpenAI chatbot. Ernie's debut was obviously eagerly awaited. Robin Li, the CEO of Baidu, held a one-hour presentation about Ernie on Thursday, although it only provided a brief overview of the chatbot. What Ernie can accomplish and how it actually works are still up for debate.
For the time being, Ernie may only be tested via invitation; everyone else must join a waitlist. It would be incorrect to generalize about Ernie's capabilities based on TechCrunch's lack of experience with it. Yet it was evident that the public was unimpressed. Industry watchers both inside and outside of China noted that Baidu chose a long presentation using pre-recorded versions of Ernie's responses rather than showing Ernie through a live demo. Following Li's presentation, the company's shares in Hong Kong fell as much as 10%.
Li displayed the questions for Ernie and his responses on slides in five different functional areas:
Writing for literature: The user requested writing tips from Ernie for a follow-up to the acclaimed science fiction book "The Three-Body Problem."
Business writing: The user requested names from Ernie for a large-language model corporation that aids in the digitization of small and medium-sized businesses.
Logic and reasoning: Ernie was asked to answer the well-known "chickens and rabbits" arithmetic problem.
Chinese interpretation: Ernie was tasked with translating a classic Chinese term and creating a poem based on it.
Multi-modal generation: Ernie was given the task of doing "multi-modal" activities based on the initial challenge, such as reading the response out in a Chinese dialect and creating a picture from the text.
Baidu undoubtedly made an effort to show what Ernie was capable of, and the results were good, but investors weren't wowed by the well planned release. One can't help but question if Baidu hastened the launch owing to OpenAI's remarkable development and if it skipped a live demo because it lacked confidence. After all, even the pioneer of AI, Google, erred in the demonstration of its conversational AI Bard.