China to get its first generative AI chatbot from Baidu

The company plans to complete internal testing of ‘Ernie’ next month before making the chatbot available to the public.
8 February 2023

China to get its first generative AI chatbot from Baidu, following Microsoft and Google’s footsteps. Source: Shutterstock

This week alone three tech giants have announced their foray into the generative AI space – Google, Microsoft and Chinese internet giant Baidu. Google revealed Bard, its experimental conversational AI service powered by LaMDA while Microsoft launched its new, AI-powered Bing search engine and Edge browser. Baidu on the other hand unveiled that it is working on its  own generative AI chatbot, Ernie, and that it will be ready for trial by next month.

Being China’s answer to Google, Baidu joined the frenzy on Tuesday, just a day after Google unveiled Bard. Baidu’s foray into the AI chatbot space makes the company the first among its Chinese counterparts to have joined the global race that has been picking up steam. Ernie, or “Enhanced Representation through Knowledge Integration,” is a large AI-powered language model, introduced in 2019. 

According to a report by Reuters, Ernie has been growing since 2019, to be able to perform tasks including language understanding, language generation, and text-to-image generation. An article by The Register indicated that Ernie “expands into a series of advanced big models that can perform a wide range of tasks, including language understanding, language generation (ERNIE 3.0 Titan), and text-to-image generation (ERNIE-ViLG).”

What sets Ernie apart as a generative AI chatbot?

According to The Register, “What sets Ernie apart from other language models is its ability to integrate extensive knowledge with massive data, resulting in exceptional understanding and generation capabilities,” quoting Baidu’s spokesperson. In a separate article by The Register a day before, Baidu has discussed “proposed a controllable learning algorithm and a credible learning algorithm to ensure the model can formulate reasonable and coherent texts”. 

It’s done the hard work to deliver such a system, having in 2021 detailed “ERNIE 3.0 Titan” – a pre-training language model with 260 billion parameters. For context, ChatGPT uses the 175-billion parameter GPT3 model.

After OpenAI’s ChatGPT prompted widespread attention, many companies, especially Big Tech, began speeding up their AI efforts. Microsoft for instance, has been trying to get people to use Bing, its search engine for 13 years, but the outcome is far from ideal. In fact, Bing’s global market share to date remains in the low single digits. However, Microsoft has clear intentions of changing that, even after all those years. 

It announced a multiyear, multibillion-dollar investment with the artificial intelligence lab that built ChatGPT in January this year, then began pulling out all the stops in an effort to better compete with Google. In fact, just yesterday, at a press event in Redmond, Washington, Microsoft announced its long-rumored integration of OpenAI’s GPT-4 model into Bing, providing a ChatGPT-like experience within the search engine. 

“Today, we’re launching an all new, AI-powered Bing search engine and Edge browser, available in preview now at, to deliver better search, more complete answers, a new chat experience and the ability to generate content. We think of these tools as an AI copilot for the web,” Microsoft said in a blog posting yesterday.

For Chairman and CEO, Satya Nadella, “AI will fundamentally change every software category, starting with the largest category of all – search.” The company dubs the new Bing and Edge as “your copilot for the web.” When it comes to security and information, Nadella said that together with OpenAI, Microsoft has also been implementing safeguards to defend against harmful content. 

“Our teams are working to address issues such as misinformation and disinformation, content blocking, data safety and preventing the promotion of harmful or discriminatory content in line with our AI principles,” he added. 

How Microsoft’s reinventing search with AI

The company’s Chairman and CEO, Satya Nadella, in a blog posting, shared details on “the new Bing experience” and how it brings together four technical breakthroughs. “We’re excited to announce that Bing is running on a new, next-generation OpenAI large language model that is more powerful than ChatGPT and customized specifically for search,” he said. The new Bing takes key learnings and advancements from ChatGPT and GPT-3.5 – and it is even faster, more accurate and more capable.

The second breakthrough is known as the “Microsoft Prometheus model.” Nadella shared that the software giant had developed a proprietary way of working with the OpenAI model that allows them to best leverage its power. “This combination gives you more relevant, timely and targeted results, with improved safety,” he added. 

Thirdly, Nadella revealed that Microsoft applied the AI model to its core Bing search ranking engine, which led to the largest jump in relevance in two decades. With this AI model, even basic search queries are more accurate and more relevant.