Chinese search giant Baidu launched its ChatGPT-like service ERNIE Bot for public use on Thursday, as one of the first batches of companies given permission to allow regular access to generative AI bots, having filed details of its algorithms with the government. The move signals a softening of Beijing’s regulatory stance towards artificial intelligence.
- For China’s dozens of homegrown AI large language models, being among the first to launch could potentially bring early player advantages, given the relatively small distinctions between each consumer-facing service.
Details: The first tranche of approvals has been granted to tech companies and research institutes headquartered in Beijing or Shanghai, from Baidu, ByteDance, and SenseTime to the state-backed Chinese Academy of Sciences and Shanghai Artificial Intelligence Laboratory.
- Local media outlet Beijing News reported on Thursday that, in addition to the first eight entities given approval, Shenzhen-based tech giants Huawei and Tencent, as well as Hefei-founded iFlytek, are readying to unveil their artificial intelligence bots to the general public.
- Alibaba, located in Hangzhou, is not listed on the approved entities, but a source from the company’s cloud unit revealed that its chatbot service, known as Tongyi Qianwen, has completed its filing process and is ready for rollout, according to tech outlet China Star Market.
- Baidu’s ERNIE Bot topped the free app download chart of Apple’s App Store 12 hours after its public availability announcement. The company is gearing up to introduce an array of fresh AI-native apps.
Context: China implemented detailed regulations for generative AI services on Aug. 15, making it clear that government approval of algorithms is a threshold that tech companies must cross before offering AI products to the public, as a way to better control content.
- In an earnings call last week, Baidu CEO Robin Li noted that the government “has increasingly recognized” ERNIE and ERNIE Bot, believing that this endorsement stands the company in good stead for a large-scale release.