Baidu, the prominent Chinese technology company, has unveiled ERNIE 4.0, its latest artificial intelligence chatbot. Positioned as a direct competitor to OpenAI’s ChatGPT, Baidu’s CEO, Robin Li, asserted that ERNIE 4.0 is on par with GPT-4, demonstrating its capabilities at the company’s flagship event.

During the presentation, Li showcased ERNIE 4.0’s prowess by generating a commercial for a car within minutes, solving complex math problems, and even crafting a plot for a martial arts novel from scratch. While primarily operating in Mandarin Chinese, the bot can also respond to queries in English, albeit at a less advanced level.

The demonstrations highlighted significant improvements in ERNIE 4.0, particularly in its understanding of queries, generation of complex responses, and memory capabilities. Notably, the chatbot displayed the ability to recall previous instructions, constructing intricate storylines for the novel by incorporating conflicts and characters.

Charlie Dai, VP and Research Director of Technology at Forrester, noted that Baidu is the first vendor in China claiming performance parity with GPT-4. While benchmarking evidence is essential, Dai expressed cautious optimism, considering China’s long-term investments in AI and machine learning.

Baidu’s ERNIE Bot was initially introduced in March and publicly launched in August, quickly amassing over 45 million users. The latest iteration will roll out to invited users first, although the company has not specified a public release date.

ERNIE Bot’s robust capabilities have helped Baidu carve a niche in the competitive landscape of generative AI, where it faces competition from domestic rivals like Alibaba and SenseTime. Baidu’s service stands out due to its advanced understanding of Chinese queries and its ability to generate diverse responses, including video and audio, setting it apart from GPT-4, which currently generates text responses and analyses photos.

Critics have speculated that these developments might intensify the existing US-China rivalry in emerging technologies. However, Baidu has emphasised that its platform is not a tool for geopolitical confrontation.

In addition to ERNIE 4.0, Baidu announced updates to its suite of services, integrating the latest upgrades from ERNIE. These enhancements allow Baidu’s popular search engine to produce more specific results, while its mobile mapping app can assist users in booking services such as taxis.

Baidu’s advancements in AI technology reflect the company’s commitment to staying at the forefront of conversational AI, setting new standards in the evolving landscape of artificial intelligence.