Men interact with a Baidu AI robot near the company’s logo at its headquarters in Beijing, China, April 23, 2021.

Florence Lo | Reuters

BEIJING is a Chinese technology company Baidu on Thursday gave the public a glimpse of what its Chinese-language alternative to ChatGPT can do, while warning of its imperfections.

During the event, which was broadcast live, Baidu CEO Robin Li emphasized that the company’s product, called Ernie bot, is not perfect. Shares in Hong Kong fell by almost 6.4%.amid broader declines in Asian stocks, and posted its lowest close since Jan. 19.

Lee emphasized how the product will improve due to users’ ability to give it feedback.

Baidu prefers initial access to the Ernie bot for what it calls 650 ecosystem business partners, which include some media companies, banks and car companies. Baidu has a large enterprise cloud business and said AI cloud users can apply to access the bot’s Ernie software interface.

Within an hour of the announcement of the Ernie bot, Baidu reported that 30,000 enterprise customers had joined the waiting list for access to the chatbot. CNBC, other media and the general public were not immediately given access.

This week, Microsoft-backed OpenAI announced GPT-4, the latest version of the artificial intelligence technology behind the wildly popular ChatGPT chatbot. The bot was initially released to the public for free in November, and people who want to access GPT-4’s capabilities must pay $20 per month.

ChatGPT is capable of speaking like a human and generating everything from content summaries to business proposals.

While ChatGPT is free for anyone to set up an account, people had to join a waiting list to try out Microsoft’s Bing AI chatbot, which uses OpenAI technology, which launched last month. Some users report horrible experiences.

Baidu’s Li said the Ernie bot has similar problems when it’s used enough, and that it’s not perfect. But he noted that the model was trained on a set of 550 billion facts.

The artificial intelligence is not intended to highlight the rivalry between the US and China, but as part of Baidu’s efforts to “change the world through technology,” Li said in Chinese, as translated by CNBC.

Hong Kong-traded Baidu shares are still up 12% for the year.

Microsoft shares are up about 11% for the year, while Google parent Alphabet’s Class A shares are up nearly 9%.

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Major stocks of technology companies related to ChatGPT

ChatGPT has caught the interest of local people in China, despite the fact that it is not officially available in the country. ChatGPT does have a Chinese language feature, although not to the same level as English.

Beijing insists on national self-sufficiency in technology while maintaining censorship and tightening data regulation.

Many Chinese companies besides Baidu are developing similar technologies.

Baidu’s Li told analysts on an earnings call in February that the company would first build its version — the Ernie bot — into the company’s search engine and open the product to the public in March.

Lee said the company also plans to use artificial intelligence technology to create content. Baidu supports one of China’s major video streaming platforms, iQiyi.

It was not immediately clear how Baidu’s Ernie bot and AI capabilities compare to ChatGPT’s capabilities.

OpenAI said this week that its GPT-4 can beat 90% of people on the SAT, the US college entrance exam

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