October 3, 2023

The Beijing search engine giant is turning the presentation into a private event for firms, citing “high demand.”

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Chinese tech giant Baidu has canceled a live-streamed public event to promote its ChatGPT rival Ernie.

Baidu said on Monday it has canceled a planned presentation that would have been open to the media and the public in favor of a closed-door meeting with companies that are testing an AI-powered bot.

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Baidu, China’s largest search engine provider, said it was changing the format of the event to meet “heavy demand” from the 120,000 firms that lined up to test Ernie.

Earlier this month, Baidu unveiled Ernie to a lukewarm response, joining the rush of companies issuing competitors for ChatGPT OpenAI, which has taken the tech world by storm since its launch last November.

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Baidu’s shares fell after CEO Robin Li’s pre-recorded demo on March 16 showed Ernie lacks features included in GPT-4’s follow-up Chat, including the ability to generate text in response to an image. Later, the firm’s shares rose strongly as users shared their experiences with the platform online.

Tech analysts say China’s efforts to imitate Chat GPT are being hampered by Beijing’s strict control of the Internet, which provides sources of information used by chatbots to imitate human speech, though local versions such as Ernie’s may still be successful domestically.

The Chinese government has pledged to step up support for AI development, and the country’s tech giants, including Huawei, Alibaba and Tencent, are working on their own versions of the technology.

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