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Baidu’s ChatGPT-Like Ernie Bot Now Available for Paid Subscription

Chinese search engine giant Baidu launched on Wednesday a paid version of its ChatGPT like Ernie bot, charging 59.9 yuan ($8.18) per month. The new version of the AI-powered chatbot is capable of generating pictures, writing text, and handling basic arithmetic, the company said in a statement. It can also understand a broader range of questions than the free version, which was released two weeks ago. In a pre-recorded demonstration, the company showed it could answer questions on buying property, summarise financial statements, and even produce PowerPoint presentations.

The release of the upgraded chatbot is part of a more significant push by Baidu to establish itself as a leading player in generative AI. It plans to use the technology in its flagship search engine and other products, such as self-driving cars, the company said. It also wants to make the technology available to developers through its model-as-a-service platform. The company is investing 1 billion yuan in this effort, including a fund to invest in other Chinese generative AI start-ups.

However, the launch comes amid a shakeout among China’s top tech companies. The country’s biggest online retailers, such as Alibaba Group Holding and Tencent Holdings, have already rolled out their AI chatbots. The arrival of these rivals shook up public opinion about the quality of China’s own AI models and drew attention to a law passed in July requiring generative AI services to obtain relevant administrative licenses.

The updated Ernie bot, named Ernie Bot 3.5, was designed to comply with the new law, Baidu said in its statement. The company also released an upgrade of its Qianfan model-as-a-service platform and an ecosystem partners program to encourage developers to build AI-powered applications.

Li Yanhong, co-founder and CEO of Baidu, touted the new Ernie bot’s performance at a press conference on Tuesday. He said it had “far-reaching” capabilities and outperformed ChatGPT and the latest generation of its rival, GPT-4, in benchmark assessments on the Chinese language.

However, a report by the China Science Daily newspaper highlighted several weaknesses in the Ernie Bot. It had trouble answering some trivia questions on Chinese history and needed help remembering the context in which the questions were posed. It could also not generate text in Sichuanese, a dialect spoken by about 20 million people in southwestern China.

The China Cyberspace Administration, the country’s leading internet regulator, is expected to grant access to more generative AI chatbots later this week, according to people familiar with the matter. By making its chatbot available to the general public, Baidu can collect massive, valuable real-world human feedback and iterate on the model at a much faster rate, the people said. This should ultimately lead to superior results, they added. It is still being determined which other Chinese firms will be granted access to their generative AI models. The agency has only given the go-ahead to Baidu and ByteDance, which released a rival model called Doubao on August 18. iFlytek and the Institute of Automation at the Chinese Academy of Sciences have applied for approval to offer their models but have not received a response.

Claire Jimmy

She is a part-time digital marketing consultant, part-time travel blogger, and full-time dreamer. He has three passions in life: Social Media, Travel and blogging. She has won many more blog awards and received many nominations as well. The creative blog writer with many years of experience.

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