Battle for AI

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China’s largest search engine company, Baidu, is set to debut its AI chatbot service in March, similar to OpenAI’s popular ChatGPT. According to sources, the tool, which is yet to be named, will be initially embedded into Baidu’s main search services and will offer conversation-style search results. The AI chatbot will be built on Baidu’s Ernie system, a large-scale machine-learning model that has been trained on data over several years.

The news of Baidu’s AI chatbot service sent the company’s shares soaring, with a 5.8% increase, the largest intraday gain in almost four weeks. Baidu CEO, Robin Li, spoke highly of the technology during an internal talk in December, stating that the commercialization of generative AI by making it a “product that everyone needs” could be challenging.

OpenAI’s ChatGPT has gained significant popularity since its public debut in November, attracting over a million users in just a few days. This has sparked a debate about the role of AI in various aspects of life, such as homes, offices, and schools. Companies like Microsoft are investing billions to develop real-world AI applications, while others are capitalizing on the hype to raise funds.

Baidu’s entry into the AI chatbot market puts it in competition with several Chinese startups that are exploring generative AI, including Sequoia and Sinovation Ventures. The company has been trying to revive growth in the mobile era, after lagging behind its larger rivals in areas such as mobile advertising, video, and social media. Baidu is not only investing in AI but also autonomous driving technology.

Despite the heavily censored domestic internet in China, ChatGPT has piqued the interest of Chinese internet users, who have shared screenshots of their conversations with the AI bot on local social media. Baidu, along with Alibaba, Tencent, and ByteDance, controls much of China’s internet and has established itself as a local equivalent to Google, Amazon, and Facebook.

In conclusion, Baidu’s entry into the AI chatbot market is a significant development in the race to commercialize AI technology. The company’s investment in AI research and development, combined with its foundation in machine learning, positions it well to take the lead in this field. With the commercialization of AI on the horizon, the future looks promising for Baidu and the AI industry as a whole.