Baidu, often described as the Chinese equivalent of Google, is to launch an artificial intelligence chatbot service similar to ChatGPT in March, according to a report by Reuters.
A source told the news service that Baidu will offer a standalone application similar to OpenAI’s ChatGPT initially, and will gradually merge it into its search engine. The company’s new bot will be based on its existing Ernie system, a large-scale machine learning model trained over several years, according to the Wall Street Journal.
ChatGPT uses vast amounts of data to give human-like answers to questions posed in natural language. The service quickly went viral after its launch and has been used to write code for programming and even write essays.
This month Microsoft confirmed a $10 billion investment in ChatGPT, and reportedly plans to use the technology to beef up its search engine Bing, which struggles for market share against the dominant market leader Google.
The emergence of AI services like ChatGPT has sparked debate in many industries. Schools have been forced to ban the use of them to write essays, and teachers in several countries have expressed concerns over possible plagiarization through the tools. Others worry they will replace human workers or contribute to the release of biased or inaccurate information.
In China, chatbots are mainly used for social interaction rather than the professional tasks ChatGPT has been used for. According to Reuters, Baidu will add the AI capabilities of a similar service to incorporate chatbot-generated results into search requests, offering fully formed paragraphs of answers rather than a host of links.
Baidu has invested heavily in artificial intelligence in recent years. The Beijing-based company has conducted research in cloud services, autonomous driving and other areas as it looks to diversify its revenue sources. Baidu unveiled three AI-powered services that allow technology to assume the roles of screenwriter, illustrator, editor or animator.