Baidu claims 200 million users for Ernie chatbot, in sign that generative AI investments are paying off

Baidu claims 200 million users for Ernie chatbot, in sign that generative AI investments are paying off

Baidu’s artificial intelligence (AI) chatbot Ernie Bot has attracted over 200 million users, according to company co-founder and chief executive Robin Li Yanhong, as the race to commercialise AI heats up in China.

Ernie Bot reached the milestone just 13 months after its launch, with enterprise client numbers exceeding 85,000, Li said at Baidu’s AI developer conference in southern China’s tech hub Shenzhen on Tuesday.

At the conference, Li introduced three tools based on Ernie – the large language model (LLM) behind Baidu’s ChatGPT-like service – for developers to build applications, AI agents and models, in some cases without the need to know how to code.

“[The] LLM itself doesn’t create value directly, and only AI apps developed [using LLMs] can meet the real market demand,” Li said.

Generative AI takes centre stage at twin Hong Kong tech fairs

Baidu is playing a leading role in trying to generate revenues and profits from AI chatbot in China’s relatively closed market, with more than 200 LLMs jostling for space.

Ernie was released in March 2023 as China’s first answer to OpenAI’s ChatGPT, which is not available in mainland China, home to the world’s biggest internet population. There has since been a frenzy over AI in the country, with tech giants and start-ups developing their own models.

One of the rapidly growing players is Moonshot AI, which launched the smart chatbot Kimi Chat, built on its self-developed Moonshot LLM, which can process as many as 200,000 Chinese characters in a context window.

The company raised more than US$1 billion in a new funding round led by e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding and venture capital firm HongShan, at a valuation of about US$2.5 billion, according to Chinese media reports. Alibaba owns the South China Morning Post.

Ernie Bot and Baidu icons are seen on an iPhone screen. Photo: Shutterstock Images

Mainland China had 254 LLMs as of November last year, according to a white paper published by the Beijing Municipal Science and Technology Commission.

However, Baidu’s Li has previously criticised the frenzy over LLMs as a “huge of waste of resources”. At an event in Shenzhen last November, he said there were too many LLMs in China “but too few AI-native applications based on those models”.

Baidu unveiled an updated version of Ernie Bot during its annual technology conference last October, which Li said at the time was comparable to OpenAI’s GPT-4. The company launched a paid version of Ernie 4.0 in November for 59.9 yuan (US$8.33) per month, as part of efforts to accelerate the commercialisation of its chatbot.

At the company’s earnings call in February, Li said Ernie achieved “breakthroughs in monetisation” in 2023. Revenue from Baidu’s generative AI services and related businesses reached 656 million yuan during the fourth quarter, representing about 7.8 per cent of total cloud service revenue of 8.6 billion yuan.



Read More

Leave a Reply