Baidu opens up its ERNIE generative AI to the public

It's one of the first companies to get China's approval to release a generative AI chatbot.

JADE GAO via Getty Images

Another ChatGPT rival is out in the wild. Baidu has made ERNIE Bot, its generative AI product and large language model, generally available to the public through various app stores and its website. Alongside ERNIE (Enhanced Representation through Knowledge Integration), the company plans to release a string of AI apps it says will allow folks "to fully experience the four core abilities of generative AI: understanding, generation, reasoning, and memory."

Opening up ERNIE Bot (which is focused on the Chinese market) to the public will enable Baidu to obtain much more human feedback, according to CEO Robin Li. The company notes that this will help it iterate on ERNIE Bot more quickly and improve the user experience.

Baidu announced the chatbot back in March, demonstrating capabilities such as summarizing a sci-fi novel and offering suggestions on how to continue the story in an expanded universe. It can generate images and videos based on text inputs too. Earlier this month, Baidu said ERNIE Bot's training throughput had increased three-fold since March and that it's now capable of data analysis and visualization, generating results more quickly and handling image inputs.

As of August 15th, Chinese companies need to obtain approval from authorities before they can release generative AI experiences to the public, and Baidu was one of the first to get the green light, according to Bloomberg. The report suggests officials see AI as a "business and political imperative given the transformative nature of the technology." Beijing is said to want guardrails in place to keep a tight lid on content while still enabling Chinese companies to compete with overseas rivals.