We have had happier times. Baiduat the origin of the eponymous search engine, the most used in China, to present its great language model on March 16, the day after OpenAI’s GPT-4 release. The presentation of the company’s founder, Robin Li, disappointed investors. The performance of Ernie Bot, the name of Artificial Intelligence (AI) has only been demonstrated through a pre-recorded video.
Ernie Bot victim of his shyness
In the manner now familiar to tech industry executives, Robin Li appeared alone on a stage, lit by a huge screen, in front of an audience of journalists in the dark. In front of approximately two million viewers on WeChat, the founder broadcast and commented on a video about the performance of the highly anticipated Generative AI, Ernie Bot.
Like Google a month earlier, the performance of about fifty minutes did not convince investors. Baidu’s stock saw a 6.4% drop in value in Hong Kong. The price has since gone up.
In the case of Bard, the AI of the American counterpart of Baidu, it was an error that had provoked this reaction. Yesterday Ernie didn’t do anything wrong and for good reason, his presentation was well scripted. Fewer bad surprises, but a bad signal sent on the outcome of the language model.
Faced with this lack of risk and the relatively basic questions to which Ernie was subjected, Chinese Internet users did not fail to mock Baidu, reports Bloomberg. As of Thursday, a waiting list was opened to the company’s partners and customers. No timeline has been released on when AI access will begin or when it will open to a wider audience.
Robin Li himself, probably for the sake of transparency, admitted that Ernie wasn’t perfect yet, ” I can’t say we’re quite ready. Benchmarking Ernie Bot against ChatGPT, or even GPT-4 is a high bar “.
According to information from FinancialTimes, the success of ChatGPT precipitated the work of Baidu. Resources have been reallocated to developing its AI and not falling behind the American competition. The search engine giant must also face the giants Tencent and Alibaba in its local market. However, the company seems to be the best placed in this race: it has invested billions of dollars in recent years in major language models.
Baidu, caught in a vice by the Sino-American rivalry?
Baidu’s presentation may have generated mockery, but many partners showed interest. 30,000 would have registered on the waiting list in the hour following the broadcast of the service. Robin Li promised that “ His extremely strong ability to understand and express language will allow any company to get closer to its customers. “.
Baidu employees were able to test Ernie Bot, subject to the signing of a confidentiality agreement, to challenge the AI and train it in real conditions. Management believes that Ernie is reaching the ChatGPT level of its November consumer release, in version 3.5. For many of the company’s partners, the Baidu-style AI has the advantage of speaking Mandarin and, perhaps, better adapting to the censorship and local regulations.
Baidu’s Chinese and even Beijing origin could however pose a problem. The company could suffer the rivalry of its country with the United States for the development and exploitation of its AI. Washington already has prohibits the export of the most powerful Nvidia GPUsused for the operation of 95% of AI.
As early as November Baidu had assured to be relatively spared at this level. The company has prepared stocks and workarounds exist. However, it remains an actor, in spite of itself according to its founder, of the technological race between China and the United States where AI occupies a major place.