Baidu launches paid version of Ernie Bot as Chinese firms rush to make money from their generative AI chatbots – Yahoo Finance

The subscription allows users to make 100 inquiries every three hours via Ernie Bot 4. Meanwhile, the more basic Ernie Bot 3.5 remains free of charge to the public.
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Ernie Bot 4.0 was unveiled by Baidu co-founder and CEO Robin Li Yanhong last month with the promise of improved capabilities in understanding complex questions, generating pictures and handling basic arithmetic.
"Its generalised abilities are by no means inferior compared to GPT-4," Li said at its launch on October 17, referring to the latest ChatGPT model from Microsoft-backed OpenAI.
Ernie Bot's subscription fees are lower compared to OpenAI's ChatGPT Plus membership, which is priced at US$20 monthly with faster response times and priority access to new features.
Baidu's move comes as Chinese tech firms race to monetise and commercialise their large language models (LLMs), which have surpassed 100 in number since OpenAI launched ChatGPT in November 2022.
LLMs – the power behind these chatbots – are deep-learning AI algorithms that can recognise, summarise, translate, predict and generate content using very large data sets.
Some Chinese firms have already offered their LLMs to enterprise users for a fee calculated based on the number of texts processed and generated. Baidu's Qianfan, its model-as-a-service platform, offers various AI models and capabilities with prices starting from 0.002 yuan per 1,000 tokens.
Tokens here refer to units of text that the model reads and generates, with their size varying among different models and languages. For instance, 1,000 tokens is about 750 words in English under OpenAI's scheme.
Social media and gaming giant Tencent Holdings launched its Hunyuan API for enterprise at 0.01 yuan per 1,000 tokens, after users exhaust their free quota of 100,000 tokens on sign-up. In comparison, the ChatGPT API costs USD$0.002 per 1,000 tokens. In Tencent's calculation, one token is approximately 1.8 Chinese characters or 3 English letters.
However, Chinese firms' efforts to develop their own generative AI services are facing increasing curbs by local regulators, with authorities issuing new guidelines and rules this year meant to ensure AI-generated content aligns with official narratives.
China in August imposed a general regulation targeting domestic generative AI services, making it one of the first countries to impose rules governing the emerging technology.
This article originally appeared in the South China Morning Post (SCMP), the most authoritative voice reporting on China and Asia for more than a century. For more SCMP stories, please explore the SCMP app or visit the SCMP's Facebook and Twitter pages. Copyright © 2023 South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.
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