Baidu to deploy conversational AI across search, in-car entertainment and more

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Baidu today revealed more details about its much-anticipated intelligent Ernie Bot, widely seen as the search giant’s counterpart to ChatGPT. Ernie Bot is built atop Baidu’s large language model Erniethat released in 2019. In May last year, the third generation of Ernie launched.

Here’s how Baidu plans to integrate Ernie Bot into its ecosystem of services, said the firm’s founder and CEO Robin Li in a letter to staff today.

“The integration of ERNIE Bot with Baidu Search will lead to a generational change in the search experience.” Sounds familiar? This will likely be something akin to Bing with ChatGPT built in.

“In addition to providing better search service and answers, we will offer a new interactive and chat experience, as well as provide uniquely generated content that will greatly enrich the content ecosystem and supply, becoming a new traffic entry point.”

This part is a bit vague, but it might have something to do with Baidu’s content distribution platform, which is currently supplied by a network of news agencies, corporate accounts and individual bloggers. Could Ernie Bot be used to generate more personalized content for users?

“ERNIE Bot will also provide services to the public through Baidu AI Cloud. Previously, the choice of cloud vendors was based primarily on basic cloud services such as computing power and storage. In the future, the focus will be on the framework, the model, and the synergy between the model, framework, chip and application. This shift will fundamentally rewrite the rules of the game in the cloud computing market.”

This appears to mirror the collaboration between Microsoft and OpenAI, through which Azure’s customers can access the AI lab’s technologies.

Lastly, Baidu plans to boost its in-car voice assistant with Ernie. The search giant has over the past few years developed an operating system for smart vehicles called Apollo — think Android for cars — and made some applications in-house, including Xiaodu.

“ERNIE Bot is also being installed on the Apollo Smart Cabin product series, taking smart cars a generation ahead in terms of the human-vehicle interaction experience. The integration of ERNIE Bot with Xiaodu will significantly expand Xiaodu’s ability to converse with users, making it smarter and more understanding, and allowing it to provide more versatile intelligent assistance to users.”

Regardless of Ernie Bot’s performance, it will have to deal with the country’s censorship regime like any generative AI product operating in China. How can it ensure its algorithmic black box doesn’t breach China’s ever-changing censorship rules? It will need a layer of content filtering on top of its chatbot, just as existing media platforms moderate content by employing robots and human auditors. But in the end, having such constraints could compromise the user experience of a supposedly free-wheeling generative AI.

More updates to come… 

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