Baidu releases new AI tool to promote application development

Baidu CEO Robin Li speaks during the company’s Create conference in Shenzhen, China, on April 16, 2024.

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SHENZHEN, China – One year after the Chinese search engine operator Baidu released the ChatGPT-like Ernie bot, this week the company announced tools aimed at encouraging locals to develop artificial intelligence applications.

“In China today, there are 1 billion internet users, a solid platform model, enough AI application scenarios, and the world’s most complete industrial system,” CEO Robin Li said in his article. opening speech at Baidu’s annual AI developers conference on Tuesday.

“Everyone can become a developer,” he said in Mandarin, according to a CNBC translation.

While many point out that China lags behind the US in artificial intelligence capabilities, others emphasize the strength of the Chinese market lies more in the application of technology. Take e-commerce the next day And Food delivery 30 minutesFor example.

Baidu’s newly announced AI tools enable people with no coding knowledge to create AI-powered synthetic chatbots for specific functions, which can then be integrated into pages. web, Baidu search engine results or other online portals. That’s different from a similar tool called GPT that OpenAI launched earlier this year, because those custom-built chatbots — for everything from movie recommendations to code corrections — are all within the ChatGPT interface. .

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Baidu’s basic tools are generally available for free trial up to a certain usage limit, similar to some other tools. by Google cloud and AI functionality. OpenAI charges a monthly fee for the latest version of ChatGPT and the ability to use it for computer programs. The older ChatGPT 3.5 model is free to use but does not have access to custom-built GPT.

This week, Baidu also announced three new versions of the Ernie AI model – called “Speed”, “Lite” and “Tiny” – that programmers can selectively access, based on their level. complexity of the task.

“It seems like their focus is on building an entire native AI development ecosystem, providing a full set of development tools and platform solutions,” said Bo Du, managing director of WestSummit Capital Management. ”. That’s according to CNBC’s translation of China’s remarks.

Baidu said this week that the Ernie bot has accumulated more than 200 million users since its launch. launched in March last year and computer programs are accessing the underlying AI model 200 million times a day. The company said more than 85,000 enterprise customers have used its AI cloud platform to create 190,000 AI applications.

How technology is being used

Many of the use cases Baidu demonstrated this week focused on consumer-facing applications: travel and content creation like photo books and scheduling meetings.

In a demonstration hall, Baidu’s business units demonstrated how AI tools can be integrated with virtual people doing livestreams or driving search engine traffic to tutorials. AI-based interactive purchasing.

Buysmart.AI, which won Baidu’s AI competition last year, uses the technology for its online shopping assistant connected to Chinese social media platform Weibo. The startup said it is using ChatGPT for a standalone interactive e-commerce application in the US

“I personally think that Ernie 4.0 captures Chinese better than ChatGPT 3.5,” said Andy Qiu, co-founder of Buysmart.AI, in an interview. That’s according to CNBC’s translation of his Mandarin remarks.

Consumers in the US are now more interested in AI products than users in China, Qiu said. But he said that overall there is still room for improvement when it comes to building consumer trust in AI assistants and convincing users to place orders.

Also on display is a humanoid robot developed by Shenzhen-based UBTech Robotics, which uses Baidu’s Ernie AI model to understand commands and read writing.

It is unclear at this point how significantly such AI applications could change business operations. But Baidu is the latest company to roll out more tools to make testing easier and cheaper for people.

Helen Chai, managing director at CIC Consulting, points out that customer service, voice assistants and internet-connected devices can use smaller AI models to respond quickly to users.

She added that in situations such as legal advice or medical diagnosis, small AI models can be trained on specific data to achieve performance comparable to larger AI models.

Baidu CEO Li said in the future, large AI-based applications will rely on a combination of models, using the technical term “mixture of experts,” or MoE.

He also promoted Baidu’s capabilities in AI-generated code, one of the areas where Silicon Valley tech companies see the most potential for innovative AI.

Baidu said that since rolling out its AI coding assistant “Comate” a year ago, the tool has contributed to 27% of the tech company’s newly created code. According to Baidu, audio streaming app Ximalaya, IT services company iSoftStone and Shanghai Mitsubishi Elevator are among the more than 10,000 corporate users of Comate and have used nearly half of the code the tool generates.

The global rush to develop synthetic AI has created a shortage of semiconductors needed to provide computing power. Chinese companies face more restrictions due to US restrictions on chip exports.

Baidu did not specifically discuss the shortage of computing power during the main session. In his speech, Dou Shen, head of cloud AI at Baidu, noted “uncertainties” in the chip supply chain and announced that Baidu has a platform that can access the power of several different types of chips.

Back in February, Li said on an earnings call that Baidu’s AI chip reserves “allow us to continue to enhance Ernie over the next year or two.” The company is expected to announce first-quarter results on May 16.


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