Baidu AI Chatbot

Baidu shares slumped for the “underwhelmed” Ernie Bot debut

Zijing Fu

posted on March 16, 2023 6:12 pm

Baidu, the Chinese tech giant known for its search engine and AI capabilities, today held a press conference for its ChatGPT-like AI chatbot, “Ernie Bot”. The company’s stock price s after the Beijing-based teased plans regarding Ernie Bot on February 7, as the public had high expectations given the generative AI hype.

However, Baidu shares were once down more than 10 percent today, after it introduced Ernie Bot with pre-recorded demos and said it is not open to public yet.

According to Baidu, Ernie Bot is proven to be capable in five scenarios including literary creation, business writing, mathematical calculation, Chinese language understanding, and multi-modal generation. Robin Li, the co-founder, chairman and CEO, showcased applications in aforementioned scenarios with five pre-recorded demos.

Nevertheless, there were highlights during the demo. Ernie Bot was able to detect logical fallacy in a mathematical question, and it was able to understand historical references and idioms. Moreover, Ernie Bot was able to generate audios and videos in addition to texts and images, and even able to deliver in dialects in Chinese.


A selection of Baidu's Ernie Bot demo, which showcased its audio and video abilities.
A selection of Baidu's Ernie Bot demo, which showcased its audio and video abilities.

For people who are seeking ChatGPT alternatives, Ernie Bot is not yet ready in multi-language handling. “We will gradually train Ernie Bot for multi-lingual abilities, including English and other languages, as well as translation and detection between languages.” Li said in the video.

Starting March 16, Ernie Bot will be available to an initial selected group of users. Baidu is also offering access to the Ernie Bot API via Baidu AI Cloud, allowing enterprise clients to apply and join a waitlist. The company has also said the bot will “soon” be made available to more users.

In addition to raising doubts with pre-recorded demo and having limited access, Baidu’s cautious phrasing when introducing Ernie Bot also opened itself up to more criticism. Li admitted Ernie Bot is ”imperfect yet”, but it has to be launched as the market calls. Li also said the chatbot will “surprise users at times,” as well as “”make obvious mistakes,” but it will improve rapidly.

Like Li said, Ernie Bot is not perfect. No signs from the released demos indicate the Ernie Bot surpasses the viral ChatGPT, except for maybe its Chinese understanding abilities. Baidu’s decade-long investments in AI (which was mentioned and emphasized at Ernie Bot’s launch) apparently doesn’t impress shareholders enough, as the company’s stocks took a significant dip before paring some losses and ending the day at -6.36%

According to Li, instead of a ready-for-use product, Ernie Bot should be defined as a pre-trained large model which serves as the foundation for future applications, “a game changer for cloud computing” and the basic infrastructure of “MaaS”, Model as a Service.

"Ernie Bot is not a tool for ‘China-U.S. confrontation’”, Li remarked, “but rather a natural result of generations of Baidu technical experts pursuing the dream of using technology to change the world. It is the latest platform that serves billions of customers and empowers thousands of industries, and it is also the best proof of innovation-driven development."