The Chinese version of Google, Baidu, is reportedly planning to incorporate a ChatGPT-like interactive Artificial Intelligence (AI) chatbot into its website by March, Reuters reported on January 30.
According to the report, the AI would initially be a standalone application gradually eased into the firm’s search engine services.
Following the news, Baidu’s BIDU rose to its highest since September 2022. The shares increased by roughly 3% to $143.45, continuing an impressive start to the year that has seen it gain over 22%.
The report did not reveal the name of the planned chatbot.
AI to be US, China’s next battlefield
Experts have suggested that Baidu’s plan signifies China’s entrance into the AI race. According to Cyrus Janssen, the new battle between the Asian country and the United States would be about AI. He added that:
“ChatGPT has dominated headlines across the Western business world and it’s clear that AI is the future and China is the world leader in AI research and Baidu $BIDU CEO Robin Li looks to take the lead with China’s version of ChatGPT.”
Baidu is one of China’s “national AI teams.” The list includes rivals Tencent, Alibaba, SenseTime, and iFlytek, amongst others. These companies are tasked with leading the country’s AI journey in their respective sectors.
Baidu’s chatbot is built on ERNIE
Bloomberg reported that the unnamed chatbot would be embedded into the company’s search engine services to provide conversational-like responses to queries. The report added that the chatbot is built on the company’s ERNIE system — Baidu’s machine learning model that has been trained with data for several years.
The Enhanced Language Representation with Informative Entities (ERNIE) is pre-trained on text using several unsupervised-learning tasks. Like GPT-3 and other models, ERNIE 3.0 performs language modeling tasks. The model achieved state-of-the-art results during training in various Natural Language Processing (NLP) tasks.
Why Baidu is developing a ChatGPT-like chatbot
Baidu CEO Robin Li hinted that the search engine giant could take the lead in AI with its anticipated product. According to Li, while the new technology has enjoyed wide adoption worldwide, the problems lie in how to commercialize the product.
Meanwhile, Baidu plans to deepen competition against rivals like Alibaba, Tencent, etc., by developing products that compete in mobile advertising, social media, and other industries. The chatbot is expected to be one of the many products Baidu would release to compete against these firms.
Baidu’s chatbot and China’s internet censorship
The search engine company’s biggest challenge would be mitigating China’s famed firewall.
Several Chinese users had shared screenshots of their interactions with ChatGPT on Chinese social media platforms. However, there are fears that internet censorship in the country could muzzle the use of AI.
“The moment some citizen asks Chinese ChatGPT to write a satirical post about Xi Jinping, the communist party will put the hammer down on the company. Its going to be censored even more than OpenAI, so Chinese will stifle their own progress.”
Interest in ChatGPT soars
Meanwhile, following ChatGPT’s November 2022 debut, interest in AI has soared to new levels, with many debating the use of AI in everyday life.
The program has since seen investments from Microsoft, while several others have announced plans to do the same. Several tech giants like Microsoft and Buzzfeed have revealed plans to integrate the tech into their content.