Baidu's shares first drop, then rebound as first users test Ernie bot

Ernie Bot — short for "Enhanced Representation through Knowledge Integration" — is the name of this AI-powered bot.
Mrigakshi Dixit

ChatGPT has become a worldwide phenomenon. Its growing popularity has prompted various tech companies and startups to join this bandwagon. Now, another budding candidate has emerged.

China unveiled its eagerly awaited artificial intelligence-based chatbot, Ernie Bot, on Thursday, March 16. Baidu is one of China’s biggest search and artificial intelligence companies. 

In February, the company announced that its AI-powered deep learning chatbot Ernie would be integrated into various applications.

Introducing Ernie

The name Ernie is short for "Enhanced Representation through Knowledge Integration.” The AI bot has been created to perform a variety of tasks, such as solving math problems, writing poems, and creating images and videos.

On the other hand, Baidu intends to incorporate this AI into its search engine, which is widely used in China. According to Reuters, other applications include cloud computing, intelligent cars, and home appliances.

The company claims that Ernie Bot is now available to some early users, who can access it with special invitation codes beginning Thursday, March 16. Meanwhile, companies interested in using the bot's services can do so through Baidu's cloud platform. Reportedly, over 75,000 corporate users have signed up for the Ernie API trial.

First users test Ernie

However, introducing this chatbot did not go well in the market. It received a lot of flak for the limited presentation of Ernie Bot, which was based on some brief, pre-recorded videos.

The presentation included five videos of Ernie Bot answering questions about the famous Chinese science fiction novel "The Three Body Problem," and also summarized the book's story. The chatbot also demonstrated math skills, tried the Sichuan dialect, and created a conference poster using the text prompts.

“For sure we cannot say that it's perfect," said Baidu CEO Robin Li, while presenting Ernie Bot. Further adding: “So why are we unveiling it today? Because the market demands it.”

Post-announcement, the tech giant's Hong Kong-listed shares fell by 10%. Following an earlier dip, the shares recovered by 15.7% on Friday, March 17.

Some of the first users who received the code, including tech bloggers, shared their thoughts on the Ernie bot. Soon after the introductory presentation, they posted livestream tests of the newly unveiled chatbot. Some of them also compared the features to chatbots in the United States, and took to the Weibo social platform to share their experience.

AI-powered chatbots are expected to take the IT industry by storm.

Recently, Alphabet Inc's Google announced a slew of AI-powered tools for its email, collaboration, and cloud software products. Microsoft, another IT giant, is expected to follow suit. Microsoft has also been improving its search engine Bing to meet market trends and growing AI demand, potentially speeding up the process.

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