The Beijing-based startup is competing with Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. and Tencent Holdings Ltd. to establish a next-generation platform for the largest internet market in the world.

Baidu Inc. will unveil its ChatGPT-alternative at a highly anticipated launch event, launching China’s opening volley in a struggle with the United States to control a potentially breakthrough technology.
Thursday, billionaire creator Robin Li will go to a Beijing stage to demonstrate his company’s “Ernie Bot,” a milestone moment for a search leader that has battled to revive growth in recent years. At Ernie’s first public demonstration, Li and the head of technology, Wang Haifeng, are set to explain how artificial intelligence will power the company’s cloud and content businesses by presenting questions to Ernie.

The Beijing-based startup is competing with Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. and Tencent Holdings Ltd. to develop a next-generation platform for the largest internet market in the world. They join US companies like as Microsoft Corp. and Google in attempting to access the potential of so-called generative AI, after services such as OpenAI’s ChatGPT and Dall-E proved to the public the capacity to generate music and movies on demand and deliver complete replies.

According to industry pioneer and New York Times bestselling book Kai-Fu Lee, Chinese enterprises should be able to catch up to their American counterparts due to their large data stores and capacity to swiftly refine and deploy technologies. They might together bring in a technology revolution that would dwarf the mobile era.

“Baidu is the clear lead. In a recent interview with Bloomberg Television, the founder of Sinovation Ventures predicted that other Chinese corporations and a few startups will develop comparable technology. But, “we must also acknowledge that China has a number of additional hurdles.”

Baidu and its Chinese competitors will face further US limitations on the export of American technology, including the most advanced Nvidia Corporation processors used to train AI models. It is unknown how these factors will affect China’s growth in the long run, but analysts like Lee believe China will be able to discover alternatives or workarounds.

In a long-term effort to transform itself from an online marketing corporation into a provider of advanced technology, China’s internet search leader has wagered billions of dollars on artificial intelligence. Its Ernie AI system, a large-scale machine-learning model built on data over several years, will serve as the foundation for its own chatbot and other products, such as an image generator.

Baidu intends to include Ernie Bot into all of its core processes, including its flagship search application, cloud computing, and autonomous driving software. Companies ranging from automobile manufacturers to news websites have stated that they will utilize Baidu’s technology in their enterprises.

Baidu’s ad market share loss will likely be reversed by integrating Ernie Bot with online search, just as the business benefits from a comeback in areas including as tourism and healthcare, Macquarie analysts including Esme Pau said in a Tuesday note. This year, its market worth has increased by almost 20%, or more than $7 billion, surpassing the majority of its Chinese online competitors.

“We expect new marketing and monetization tactics to be major catalysts in the months after the Ernie Bot launch,” they stated.

Baidu invited some of its 40,000 employees to join in a trial run of Ernie Bot earlier last week, according to colleagues who received the invitation. Such testing might provide vital last-minute input for the AI’s fine-tuning before to its release.

The repercussions of a bungled launch might be disastrous. In February, shares of Alphabet Inc., the parent company of Google, plummeted after its AI replied wrong during a demonstration, stoking fears that it had slipped technologically behind. OpenAI revealed a new language model underlying its groundbreaking ChatGPT on Wednesday, claiming it will increase the tool’s accuracy and safety.

Internally, Baidu executives believe Ernie Bot has achieved the same level as ChatGPT, which launched in November, but Ernie’s advantage rests in its comprehension of the Chinese language and culture, according to a source who requested anonymity to disclose private information.

In addition to accuracy problems, Baidu and its local competitors must ensure that their AI bots do not offend Chinese regulators and censors. ChatGPT is not directly available in China, and internet platforms such as Tencent’s WeChat have terminated local developers who integrated the technology into their own services.

It is too early to say if Ernie Bot will become as popular as WeChat or Alibaba’s Taobao. While Baidu battled for years to monetize its AI technology in the smartphone age, its larger competitors won over consumers with more user-friendly products.

In February, Li informed staff that the development of AI technology has reached a tipping point where it would surely alter all types of organizations and sectors.

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