Ernie’s release follows the new regulation in the AI industry introduced by the Chinese government. Notably, Baidu became the first company to get an approval from the authorities.
On March 16, Chinese internet search services giant Baidu Inc (HKG: 9888) revealed its Chinese-language ChatGPT alternative – Ernie chatbot. At that time, the chatbot was not fully ready, therefore, it was available to a limited number of users, mostly business partners and those who were the first on the waitlist. Today, Baidu has announced that Ernie bot is fully open to the general public. Within a few hours after the public launch, the Ernie AI chatbot ranked as the top application on Apple’s app store in China.
“We are thrilled to share that ERNIE Bot is now fully open to the general public starting August 31. In addition to ERNIE Bot, Baidu is set to launch a suite of new AI-native apps that allow users to fully experience the four core abilities of generative AI: understanding, generation, reasoning, and memory.”
Following the news, Baidu shares soared by over 3%. Yesterday, Baidu stock closed the trading session at $145.08.
Ernie stands for Enhanced Representation through Knowledge Integration and is built on the massive ERNIE large language model. The bot is able to produce different media, it can generate images, texts, audio, and video from given text prompts. The new technology can also produce voice output in multiple dialects.
AI Regulation in China
Ernie’s release follows the new regulation in the AI industry introduced by the Chinese government. China’s goal is to become a global leader in the AI industry by 2030 and surpass the United States where AI is nowadays a key technology. As part of its AI strategy, China wants the industry to be properly regulated and overseen.
On August 15, China issued AI regulations that require companies to carry out a complete security review and obtain approvals before publicly launching their products. According to 24 guidelines released by the Cyberspace Administration of China, AI-related companies must provide generative AI services that comply with government requests for technology and data. In addition, providers of generative AI must use data and foundational models with “lawful sources”, comply with privacy rules and obtain consent when using personal information, and label generated content as required by the Deep Synthesis Provisions.
As many as seven agencies will be in charge of oversight, including the Cyberspace Administration of China and the National Development and Reform Commission.
The Cyberspace Administration of China commented:
“The introduction of the ‘Measures’ aims to promote the healthy development and standardized application of generative artificial intelligence, safeguard national security and social public interests, and protect the legitimate rights and interests of citizens, legal persons and other organizations.”
According to the guidelines, the rules would not apply to companies developing AI tech as long as the product was not available to the mass public. Notably, the final rules are more relaxed and flexible compared to the draft released in April that said forthcoming rules would apply even at the research stage.
With the public release of the Ernie AI chatbot, Baidu became the first company to get approval from the authorities.