China's Baidu is set to launch its ChatGPT alternative with "interactive features" in March, as the country's tech giant rivals OpenAI's chatbot.
In an earnings call obtained by CNBC on Wednesday, Baidu CEO Robin Li said the company would embed its chatbot Ernie into Baidu search — opening the chatbot to the public.
"We will embed Ernie bot into Baidu search first, and we'll open it to the public in March," Li said, as quoted by CNBC.
"[Baidu is working on] a revolutionary version of Baidu search built upon Ernie bot that incorporates generative AI into our search algorithm as well as content creation, and we are adding interactive features," he added. "Users will soon be able to interact directly with the new generative large language model."
The bot has been in development since 2019, according to an earlier report by the Financial Times.
"Baidu has focused talent and money on this, so they are the most likely to build one of China's leading GPT platforms," Boris Van, an analyst tracking China's AI efforts, told the outlet. "They have a lot riding on the launch."
The chatbot will reportedly be integrated into Baidu's products, including search, electric vehicles and smart assistants.
Meanwhile, Li told reporters that users would be more dependent on the Baidu search engine once it has the chatbot, Reuters reported.
"Ernie Bot will ... enhance the user experience, and users will be much more dependent on us for all kinds of tasks and needs, therefore, significantly expand the market size of search (engines)," Li said, as quoted by Reuters.
Online advertising would also be boosted by the integration of Ernie Bot into the search engine, according to Li. He added that Baidu plans to eventually build an AI ecosystem around Ernie Bot.
With Microsoft-backed ChatGPT not officially available in China, other tech giants are also developing their artificial intelligence products to rival the West's AI projects.
In light of this, Li said that Baidu has an advantage as the "first mover" in China's market since they have already been developing large language models for years.
"It is trained by serving billions of user search requests and other applications every day," Li said, per CNBC, adding that the app has over 100 billion parameters.