The world is no longer the same after the launch of OpenAI’s AI-powered chatbot, ChatGPT. The revolutionary chatbot brought about a sweeping change across various domains in the tech world. While it offered an array of solutions to various day-to-day challenges, companies around the world realised that there’s more to large language models that fuel generative AI. OpenAI’s innovation led to many companies scrambling to adopt generative AI into their products and services, further intensifying the AI race.

The AI-powered chatbot answer questions, write comprehensive essays, code and summarise large chunks of information. And, this was enough for companies to establish their own AI chatbots that could offer unique solutions to their wide user base. Even as Google, Microsoft, and Meta were exploring various facets of generative AI, Chinese multinational tech company Baidu too was working on its own version of a conversational AI chatbot - ERNIE Bot.

What is ERNIE BOT?

On Thursday, Baidu introduced to the world the ERNIE Bot, which it claims is based on a new-generation language model and is essentially a generative AI product. ERNIE is built on Baidu's in-house models - Enhanced Representation through Knowledge Integration (ERNIE) and Pre-trained Dialogue Generation Model (PLATO). It was initially released in 2019, and ever since then, it has evolved from a natural language model to a multi-modal platform with cross-industry and cross-task capabilities.

The bot is proficient in use cases such as literary creation, mathematical calculation, business writing, understanding the Chinese language and multi-modal generation. Baidu claims it is able to comprehend human intentions and deliver logical responses that are human-like and fluent.

Also read |Megatron NLG, ERNIE, and BLOOM: A look at GPT-3-like Large Language Models

The search giant has positioned ERNIE Bot as a foundational AI platform that has been developed to facilitate intelligent transformations across various industry segments such as finance, public affairs, media, energy, etc.

According to Baidu Chief Executive Robin Li, multi-modality is undeniably a future trend for generative AI. "In the future, as we continue to refine Baidu's unified multi-modal large model, ERNIE Bot's multi-modal generation capabilities will advance," Li said at the launch. Regardless of its use cases, for bots like ERNIE, continuous improvement based on real-world feedback is crucial.

Baidu is one of the few AI companies that offer a full AI stack, this essentially means that ERNIE could have more use cases in the future such as autonomous driving, AI cloud, and Baidu’s catalogue of smart devices getting integrated with the bot.

The company stated that the ERNIE Bot would be available to invited users, and its API will be offered upon application to enterprise clients via Baidu AI Cloud. The bot was not publicly launched, and its use of pre-recorded videos failed to impress investors leading to the plummeting of Baidu shares on Thursday.

ERNIE Bot has been pitched as a rival to US-based AI start-up OpenAI’s ChatGPT. But how exactly does ERNIE compete with ChatGPT?


For starters, ChatGPT is public and free to use. On the contrary, whatever is in the public domain about ERNIE are brief videos presented by Baidu, which show the bot carrying out some mathematical calculations, generating images and videos from text prompts and speaking in a variety of Chinese dialects.

Also read |What is generative AI? Tech that’s keeping Google, Microsoft & Meta on their toes

At the launch event, Robin Li demonstrated that the bot could answer questions based on a popular Chinese science fiction novel and even summarise it. Reportedly, the bot performs better in Chinese than in English.

While OpenAI demonstrated all of ChatGPT’s features live, Baidu chose to contain ERNIE’s capabilities in a matter of slides. The bot reportedly lacks a wide set of functions that comes with the recently unveiled GPT-4, which is also capable of generating text in response to images as a prompt. Considering the lack of information about the features, there seems to be a lot of uncertainty around ERNIE’s potential, and all the concerns seem to be amplified by the lack of a live demo.

ChatGPT, which was launched in November 2022, is built on top of OpenAI’s GPT-3 until the launch of GPT-4 earlier this week. Compared to GPT-3, OpenAI claims GPT-4 is bigger, faster, and more accurate. With GPT-4, ChatGPT can effortlessly analyse image-related queries. As far as Baidu’s ERNIE Bot is concerned, its capabilities and contextual responses can only be gauged after it hits the public domain.

2023-03-17T11:09:03Z dg43tfdfdgfd