China Search Engine Giant, Baidu, is Developing Its Own Chatbot

Muhammad Razief Razqie . January 30, 2023

Picture: VOI

Techspace - China’s largest search engine company, Baidu, plans to debut an artificial intelligence (AI) Chatbot service similar to OpenAI’s popular ChatGPT in March, according to a Bloomberg source familiar with the matter.

The tool, with the yet-to-be-announced name, will be initially embedded in Baidu’s main search services. It will also allow users to get conversation-style search results, similar to OpenAI’s platform.

Baidu has invested billions of dollars in researching AI in recent years as the company looks to transition from online marketing to deeper technology. Bloomberg reported that the company’s Ernie system, a large-scale machine-learning model that’s been trained on data over several years, will serve as the foundation for the upcoming ChatGPT-like tool. A Baidu representative declined to comment on the matter.

At a developer conference last month, Baidu unveiled three AI-powered "creators" whose technology allows them to assume the roles of screenwriter, illustrator, editor, or animator.

Chatbots in China currently focus on social interaction whereas ChatGPT performs better at more professional tasks, such as programming and essay writing.

Baidu, along with other Chinese tech giants such as Alibaba, Tencent, and ByteDance, controls a significant portion of China’s internet. Baidu has been trying to revive growth in the mobile era as the company has lagged behind its rivals in areas such as mobile advertising, video, and social media. The company is also developing autonomous driving technology in addition to its AI research.

Chinese internet users have also taken an interest in ChatGPT, with many sharing screenshots of conversations with the AI bot on local social media. Chinese startups are also exploring generative AI and have attracted investment from companies such as Sequoia and Sinovation Ventures

The Artificial Intelligence ‘Gold Rush’

Picture: Investor’s Business Daily

The Artificial Intelligence craze among developers and corporations alike does not seem to be going away anytime soon. It all started with ChatGPT, OpenAI’s AI tool, and since November, it has gained widespread attention since its public debut. The tool amassed more than a million users within days and sparked a debate about the role of AI in schools, offices, and homes. The AI itself works by learning from vast amounts of data how to answer any prompt by a user in a human-like way, offering the information like a search engine would or prose like an aspiring novelist.

From there on, the craze, akin to California Gold Rush, continues to ever increase as companies are figuring out how to implement AI in their various services. 

Just recently, Microsoft announced a further multibillion-dollar investment in OpenAI, deepening ties with the startup behind the chatbot sensation ChatGPT and setting the stage for more competition with rival Alphabet Inc's Google.

Microsoft in a blog post announced "the third phase" of its partnership "through a multiyear, multibillion-dollar investment" including additional supercomputer development and cloud-computing support for OpenAI.

Both companies will be able to commercialize the AI tech that results from the partnership, the blog post said.

A Microsoft spokesperson declined to comment on the terms of the latest investment, which some media outlets earlier reported would be $10 billion.

The widely anticipated investment shows how Microsoft is locked in competition with Google, the inventor of key AI research that is planning its own unveil for this spring, a person familiar with the matter previously told Reuters.

Now with China set to unveil its own version of a chatbot, the competition is seemingly becoming more and more global. Despite OpenAI's headstart with ChatGPT, the company would definitely want to double its effort or risk losing the competition to China, and perhaps other countries with their own yet-to-be-announced chatbot.

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