China's tech giant Baidu, on Thursday, launched its ChatGPT competitor, Ernie Bot, to the public, marking a significant advancement for the country's tech industry as it catches up on its goal to capitalise on the worldwide artificial intelligence boom.
The Chinese government recently implemented new regulations for AI developers, allowing them to compete with major players like Microsoft and OpenAI while also maintaining strict control over online information.
The Ernie Bot is the first domestic AI application to be fully accessible to the public in China and is not available outside of the country.
"We are thrilled to share that Ernie Bot is now fully open to the general public starting August 31," Baidu said in a statement on Thursday.
"In addition to Ernie Bot, Baidu is set to launch a suite of new AI-native apps that allow users to fully experience the four core abilities of generative AI: understanding, generation, reasoning, and memory."
Ernie Bot was released in March but its availability was limited, AFP reported.
By making it widely available, Baidu will be able to gain "massive" human feedback to improve the app at a swift pace, CEO Robin Li was quoted as saying in the statement.
Generative AI apps are trained on vast amounts of data as well as their interactions with users so they can answer questions, including complex ones, in human-like language.
The rapid success of US-based OpenAI’s ChatGPT — which is banned in China — sparked an international race to develop rival apps, including image and video generators, but also widespread alarm about the potential for abuse and disinformation.
Chinese generative AI apps must "adhere to the core values of socialism" and refrain from threatening national security and promoting terrorism, violence, or "ethnic hatred", according to the guidelines published this month.
They included provisions for labelling AI-generated content and curtailing "false and harmful information".
Service providers must also conduct security assessments and submit filings on their algorithms to the authorities if their software is judged to have an impact on "public opinion", according to the rules.
Baidu, a major Chinese tech company, faces competition from Tencent and is focusing on AI, cloud computing, and autonomous driving tech.
SenseTime, a Hong Kong-listed company, has also received approval from Beijing for its service, Bloomberg reported.
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