Chinese technology giant Baidu has recently unveiled its latest iteration of the Ernie language model, Ernie 4.0. During the Baidu World 2023 conference held in Beijing, CEO and co-founder Robin Li Yanhong showcased Ernie 4.0, touting its capabilities as being on par with OpenAI’s benchmark AI model, GPT-4. Ernie 4.0’s presentation included a live demonstration of its enhanced features, such as creating advertising materials, performing basic mathematical calculations, and even generating a martial arts-themed novel in real-time.
According to Li, Ernie 4.0 has undergone significant updates across multiple dimensions, including understanding, prompting, reasoning, and memorization. He confidently claimed that Ernie 4.0’s general capabilities are in no way inferior to GPT-4.
However, not everyone was entirely convinced by Baidu’s claims. Lu Yanxia, an analyst from the consultancy firm IDC, expressed her skepticism by calling the launch underwhelming and devoid of any major highlights compared to the previous version of Ernie. Lu indicated that the true extent of Ernie 4.0’s improvements might only become apparent once it is used hands-on, as the concrete upgrades weren’t immediately clear from the presentation.
Baidu also announced plans to integrate generative AI technology into all its products, including Baidu Drive and Baidu Maps. In a demonstration, Robin Li showed how Baidu Maps now allows users to perform various functions using natural language queries on Ernie 4.0.
Despite Baidu’s grand claims and technological advancements, investors seemed unimpressed. Following the event, Baidu’s shares experienced a 1.32% decline. This reaction from investors could be attributed to the growing competition in the AI sector and the need for groundbreaking innovations to make a substantial impact on the market.
In March, Baidu had already launched an earlier version of ErnieBot, which also included pre-recorded demonstrations. These demonstrations, however, were met with disappointment from analysts, indicating the challenges faced by technology companies in living up to the ever-increasing expectations and demands of the AI industry.
Baidu has been at the forefront of China’s efforts in the AI race, a competition that has gained momentum, especially with the release of OpenAI’s ChatGPT. Data from the brokerage firm CLSA revealed that China has developed around 130 large language models, accounting for approximately 40% of the global total. China’s efforts have positioned it as the second-largest contributor in the development of AI models, trailing only the United States, which has produced 50% of these models.
In summary, Baidu’s unveiling of Ernie 4.0, with claims of capabilities rivaling OpenAI’s GPT-4, has generated mixed reactions. While Baidu showcased impressive features and integrations with its products, analysts and investors remain cautiously optimistic about the actual impact of this technology, highlighting the intense competition and the need for substantial, real-world applications to drive its success in the AI industry.