Baidu, China’s largest search engine and a leader in artificial intelligence, is set to launch its own generative AI model Ernie 3.5, which can create text, images and audio from a few words or a sketch. The announcement was made by Baidu’s co-founder and CEO Robin Li at the Zhongguancun Forum, one of China’s most well-known technology forums, reported by Reuters.
What is Ernie 3.5?
Ernie 3.5 is a large language model (LLM) that uses deep neural networks to learn from massive amounts of text data and generate natural language outputs. It is similar to OpenAI’s ChatGPT models, which have been widely used for various applications such as chatbots, text summarization, image captioning and more.
Ernie 3.5 is the latest version of Baidu’s Ernie series, which stands for Enhanced Representation through kNowledge IntEgration. The first version of Ernie was released in 2019 and achieved state-of-the-art results on several natural language processing tasks. Since then, Baidu has been improving its model with more data, more parameters and more capabilities.
According to Li, Ernie 3.5 has over 100 billion parameters, making it one of the largest LLMs in the world. It can handle multiple languages, domains and modalities, such as text, speech, image and video. It can also perform cross-modal generation, such as turning text into images or speech into text.
Applications of Ernie 3.5
One of the main applications of Ernie 3.5 is Ernie Bot, a chatbot that can converse with users on various topics and scenarios. Ernie Bot was first shown to the public in March this year to mixed reviews. Some users praised its ability to generate coherent and relevant responses, while others criticized its lack of personality and occasional errors.
Li said that Ernie Bot and other products powered by Ernie 3.5 have remained in trial mode, with a select number of companies and users invited to test the products and provide feedback. He said that Baidu will “very soon” officially launch Ernie 3.5 and make it available to developers and businesses.
Another application of Ernie 3.5 is to upgrade Baidu’s search engine, which is already powered by AI technologies such as natural language understanding, knowledge graph and voice recognition. Li said that Ernie 3.5 will enable Baidu to provide more accurate and personalized search results, as well as more diverse and creative content.
Why is Baidu investing in generative AI?
Baidu’s investment in generative AI is part of its broader strategy to become a global leader in AI and reduce its dependence on the U.S. technological foundation. China has been pursuing its own large language models in response to the U.S.-China decoupling that has given rise to a divided tech landscape between the two major economies as reported by TechCrunch.
Baidu is not the only Chinese company that is developing generative AI models. According to a report by Synced Review, a media platform focusing on AI research and industry news, Chinese organisations launched 79 AI large language models since 2020, covering various languages, domains and modalities.
Li predicted that China will lead the way in discovering commercial applications for generative AI, as it has done for other new technologies in the past. He said that China has warmly embraced new technologies and developed a host of innovative applications that are popular and useful.
“I’m very bullish on China’s AI development,” Li said. “Technology ushers in a myriad of possibilities and we are good at capturing them to build applications.”