ChatGPT is a popular messaging app with over 1.5 billion active users, so it’s no surprise that Baidu is looking to try and replicate its success. The Chinese search giant is reportedly working on its own counterpart to ChatGPT called Apollo, which would allow users to interact with artificial intelligence (AI)powered bots. Bot interactions could range from ordering food from restaurants through the app to getting information about products or services.
Baidu’s reported plans to create a Chinese version of Chatbot AI could mean big things for the technology. With Baidu likely able to improve on existing technologies, the chatbot could be an incredibly powerful tool in assisting with customer service and communication. However, while Baidu is clearly leading the charge in China when it comes to developing chatbots, there are still certain limitations that need to be addressed before they can Truly revolutionize customer service.
Digital sovereignty is a cornerstone of the governance of China’s technology sector. The country has a long and proud history in the development and use of computing devices, dating back to its establishment as one of the first communist countries. As such, Beijing takes great pride in its control over its own digital destiny, looking to maintain autonomy in key areas such as semiconductors and basic research on artificial intelligence. The rise of digital sovereignty has been spurred by episodes of U.S. export bans on Chinese companies and individuals, which have pushed Beijing to call for further tech independence from Washington in order to avoid future conflicts.
China is already a major player in the AI market, and its homegrown ChatGPTs are likely to become even more popular in the coming years. Not only do these tools allow Chinese authorities to control data flows, but they can also create AI products that better understand local culture and politics. This makes China a powerful player in the global AI market
One of the more intriguing features of Baidu’s upcoming conversational robot is that it will first be integrated into the firm’s search engine. This suggests that the chatbot will mainly generate results in Chinese, but the deep learning model is trained on both Chinese and English data sources, including information gleaned outside of China’s extensive internet censorship infrastructure. It remains to be seen how well this feature will work in practice, but if it proves to be popular among users, it could expand Beijing’s influence over online search throughout international markets.
One potential censorship constraint that Baidu would have to contend with is the government’s desire to politically restrict certain topics and discussions. For example, because ERNIE-VilG already ignores certain politically sensitive prompts, the government may not feel that a text-to-image bot is necessary for censor functions. However, if Baidu’s bot were to initiate conversations about sensitive topics or engage in political discussion, then it may fall within the bounds of permissible censorship under Chinese law.
What makes Baidu’s ChatGPT stand out is not just its sophistication, but also its speed: the system can handle up to 500,000 simultaneous users. Combining the firepower of Baidu’s search engine with a chatbot that can understand and respond quickly to user queries should give businesses a significant competitive edge.
The complete withdrawal of United States semiconductor companies from China could pose a major threat to China’s burgeoning AI industry, as these firms rely on advanced microprocessors and other high-tech equipment to operate. Already, Chinese companies have begun sourcing these components elsewhere in order to avoid sanctions, raising questions about the long-term viability of Beijing’s machine learning ambitions.
In the near term, Baidu “already stocked enough” chips in hand to avoid any significant disruptions. However, the company is looking forward to its own Kunlun AI chip which it hopes will provide a boost to its high performance computing capabilities. Alternatively, Baidu may look toward increasing the efficiency of its algorithms in order to free up more chips for other uses.