Both U.S.-based Alphabet and China-based Baidu publicly announced ChatGPT competitors on Monday as generative A.I. threatens to throw a bombshell into the world of internet search.
In a blog post released Monday, Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai revealed more details about its own generative A.I. program, called “Bard.” Pichai said the “experimental conversational A.I. service” would provide more in-depth answers “for questions where there’s no one right answer.”
Pichai said Bard would be released to “trusted testers” first, before a launch to the general public in a few weeks’ time.
In an internal memo sent after the blog post, Pichai said Google would be “enlisting every Googler to help shape Bard and contribute through a special company-wide dogfood,” reported CNBC. (The term “dogfood” is a term used in tech companies to refer to employees using their company’s own products as if they were end-users.)
Pichai continued that the company would solicit feedback from its employees “in the spirit of an internal hackathon.”
Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Google reportedly issued a “code red” after the release of ChatGPT, as the company viewed the program as a serious threat to internet search, its main product. The company has released more A.I. research since the launch of ChatGPT, including MusicLM, a program that can generate music using hummed or whistled melodies or text prompts.
Microsoft, whose Bing search engine competes with Google, is investing $10 billion into ChatGPT’s developer OpenAI, and is reportedly working to integrate OpenAi’s programs into its products.
Baidu’s ‘Ernie Bot’
Just a few hours later, another tech giant on the other side of the world announced its own competitor to ChatGPT.
Chinese tech company Baidu said it was on track to complete testing of its own conversational A.I. bot, named “Ernie Bot” in English, by March. Much like Google, Baidu is reportedly planning to integrate the bot as part of its search engine, using generative A.I. to compose written answers to search queries.
Shares in Baidu were up 15.6% at 2:40 p.m. Hong Kong time.
Baidu is investing heavily in artificial intelligence to help regain ground lost to its competitors. The company was one of China’s first successful internet companies, offering search to Chinese users (within the confines of Chinese internet censorship). Yet the company failed to capitalize on the rise of smartphones, losing ground in advertising and video to companies like Alibaba, Tencent and Bytedance.
Baidu CEO Robin Li cited ChatGPT as an example of a technology where the company could overtake its rivals at an internal meeting last December, reports Bloomberg.
Last year, Baidu launched ERNIE-ViLG, an image-generating A.I. similar to programs like Stable Diffusion. Users report the program generates some images, like those including Chinese content, better than its Western counterparts, yet the MIT Technology Review notes ERNIE-ViLG does not generate images of content deemed politically-sensitive.
Baidu is also developing self-driving cars. The company won permission from authorities to test driverless robotaxis in Beijing last December.
OpenAI has yet to make ChatGPT available in mainland China. Still, the program has gone viral in the country, as Chinese internet users find ways to access the app.
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