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China’s Baidu reveals generative AI chatbot based on language model bigger than GPT-3

Probably bilingual bot will be called ERNIE outside China, Wenxin Yiyan within

Chinese web giant Baidu, which has “AI” in its name and has made AI the focus of its hyperscale cloud, has revealed it will launch a generative AI chatbot later this year.

Chinese media reported the launch and Baidu confirmed it to The Register.

“The company plans to complete internal testing in March before making the chatbot available to the public,” a Baidu spokesperson wrote.

The bot will be named “Wenxin Yiyan文心一言” or "ERNIE Bot" in English.

The spokesperson added that the bots are based on the Enhanced Representation through Knowledge Integration (Ernie) model first proposed in 2019. We were told Ernie “expands into a series of advanced big models that can perform a wide range of tasks, including language understanding, language generation (ERNIE 3.0 Titan), and text-to-image generation (ERNIE-ViLG).”

“What sets ERNIE apart from other language models is its ability to integrate extensive knowledge with massive data, resulting in exceptional understanding and generation capabilities,” the spokesperson added.

Just what the bot will be capable of is not known, but Baidu has over the years described its ambitions for something that sounds an awful lot like ChatGPT. As we noted yesterday, Baidu has discussed "proposed a controllable learning algorithm and a credible learning algorithm to ensure the model can formulate reasonable and coherent texts". It’s done the hard work to deliver such a system, having in 2021 detailed “ERNIE 3.0 Titan” – a pre-training language model with 260 billion parameters.

ChatGPT uses the 175-billion parameter GPT3 model.

ERNIE/文心一言 is bilingual in English and Chinese. A pre-press paper [PDF] from 2021 details the performance of ERNIE, and asserts that the model is superior to all rivals – including GPT-3 – at many tasks.

In the months since ChatGPT’s release it has generated fevered speculation that it and rival chatbots represents the future of internet search, the software industry, and any form of human endeavour that involves writing.

Google’s Monday announcement of its own generative chatbot named Bard is widely held to be a somewhat panicked response to interest in ChatGPT, and perhaps to an invitation Microsoft issued for a Tuesday event expected to reveal its own AI tech.

Baidu’s announcement certainly turned heads: the company’s share price spiked around 15 percent in the hours after the company revealed ERNIE/文心一言. ®

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