The tech giant also announced that the latest version of ERNIE has been integrated into its suite of services.
Chinese technology company Baidu has unveiled the latest version of its generative artificial intelligence (AI) model ERNIE 4.0. The company claims that ERNIE 4.0’s capabilities now match those of OpenAI’s GTP-4 model.
The upgrade was announced on Tuesday by Baidu Co-Founder and CEO Robin Li Yanhong at the Baidu World 2023 conference in Beijing. Li’s presentation highlighted the latest version’s memory capabilities and showed it writing a martial arts novel in real time. He also demonstrated Ernie 4.0’s ability to create advertising posters and videos as well as its ability to understand complex questions, create images and perform basic arithmetic.
“Ernie Bot has completed a series of significant updates in its abilities of understanding, prompting, reasoning and memorising,” Li said. “Its generalised abilities are by no means inferior compared to GPT-4.”
The chatbot uses Mandarin Chinese as its primary language but is also able to process queries and generate responses in basic English.
Charlie Dai, VP and Research Director of Technology at Forrester, said Baidu is “the first vendor in China” to claim to be on par with GPT-4.
“We still need more benchmarking evidence to prove it, but I’m cautiously optimistic that this is China’s GPT-4 moment, given its long-term investment in AI [and machine learning],” he told CNN.
The launch left analysts generally unimpressed, with one pointing out that it lacked major highlights compared to the previous version.
“We should see significant improvements once Ernie 4.0 is used hands-on, but concrete upgrades aren’t immediately clear,” said Lu Yanxia, an analyst at industry consultancy IDC.
Reflecting investor sentiment, Baidu shares in Hong Kong slipped 1.7 per cent on Tuesday afternoon local time.
Competition on the Local Generative AI Market
ERNIE Bot was first unveiled in March before its official, public launch in August. It has since garnered over 45 million users. The latest version will initially only be available to select users. A date for public launch is yet to be announced.
On the AI front, Baidu faces competition locally from companies such as Alibaba and SenseTime which both have their own generative AI tools. The company touts that its model is superior because of its more advanced grasp of Chinese queries and its ability to generate video and audio responses as opposed to text only. GTP-4, on the other hand, can analyse image prompts but can only generate text responses. Dai noted that although Baidu is leading the AI race in China, competition within the industry “has just begun, and AI tech leaders like Alibaba […] Huawei, JD Cloud, SenseTime, and Tencent all have chance to take the lead.”
The tech giant also announced that the latest version of ERNIE has been integrated into its suite of services. The integration will help the company’s search engine generate more specific results and its mobile navigation app perform additional functions such as booking services like taxis.