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Baidu's AI chatbot ducks out of public demo

Please, let's not go all Skynet on this: Baidu has previously said ERNIE just isn't that impressive up close

Baidu's ERNIE chatbot, launched with great fanfare two weeks ago, has gone missing.

Baidu last week invited users and media, including The Register, to a Monday product launch at which it promised to reveal "a series of ERNIE Bot cloud services and application products."

"Enterprises of different types can choose cloud services and products based on their own needs, enabling them to conveniently, quickly, and cost-effectively build their own models and applications," we were told.

Then … nothing. The event did not take place as promised and ERNIE's cloudy incarnation has not been sighted in public since.

Tempting as it is to suggest ERNIE has gone rogue and ignored its human masters, Baidu told The Register the meeting was "transformed into a closed-door communication meeting for the first batch of invited testing enterprises" as this would "allow for more in-depth and comprehensive technical exchanges and interactions."

The event took place at the same time as the demo.

Baidu faced criticism when, after ERNIE's debut, the company admitted that the demos it showed were recorded, not live, because the bot makes for dull viewing while it goes through its mental gears.

The likes of ChatGPT and Bing AI can also go blank while their silicon innards go to work – an experience The Register found disconcerting when testing the BingBot's generative AI iteration.

Baidu now says it will offer more private demos for some of the 120,000-plus entities that have signed up to explore the service.

With Google having been roasted for making mistakes in its initial generative AI demos – causing a mighty hit to Adzilla's share price – Baidu had plenty of reasons to back off.

Indeed the Chinese firm's share price dipped on Monday after the media demo was dumped. But it has since rebounded on news that ERNIE will be added to Baidu's forthcoming electric vehicles.

Baidu remains open to applications from those who fancy taking ERNIE for a stroll. A registration form is available here. ®

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