Baidu launches Ernie chatbot after Chinese government approval – The Verge

By Emilia David, a reporter who covers AI. Prior to joining The Verge, she covered the intersection between technology, finance, and the economy.
Chinese giant Baidu officially launched its chatbot, Ernie Bot, after the government approved its application, alongside that of several other AI companies. 
Ernie Bot is now available for download from app stores or Baidu’s website. Much like its main rival, ChatGPT, users can ask Ernie Bot questions or prompt it to help write market analysis, give marketing slogan ideas, and summarize documents. The company told The Verge Ernie Bot is available globally, but users need a Chinese number to register and log in. The Baidu app is available on US Android and iOS app stores but is only in Chinese.
Baidu also opened a plug-in market for Ernie Bot.
Company representatives said the Ernie Bot surpassed 1 million users in the first 19 hours since launch.
The company said in an emailed statement that, in addition to the Ernie Bot, it plans 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.”
Baidu co-founder and CEO Robin Li noted in the same statement that the company will be able to collect “massive valuable, real-world human feedback” to improve its foundation model, also called Ernie, and bring more innovation to the Ernie Bot. 
The Ernie Bot has had a complicated journey, especially after Baidu’s first demo disappointed investors by using prerecorded videos. 
Reuters reported Baidu and the other companies had to submit security assessments to the government and prove compliance with China’s generative AI guidelines before launching commercially.
Other companies cleared by the Chinese government included SenseTime, Baichuan Intelligent Technology, Zhipu AI, and MiniMax.
Under China’s generative AI guidelines, companies must “adhere to core values of socialism,” and all training data for foundation models has to come from sources deemed legitimate by the government. 
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