BEIJING, March 16 (Reuters) - Baidu (9888.HK), on Thursday unveiled its much-anticipated artificial intelligence-powered chatbot known as Ernie Bot, with its CEO saying that it was the culmination of the firm's years of hard work in artificial intelligence.
The bot was not perfect but they were releasing it now because of market demand, Robin Li said at a media conference in Beijing.
The company's Hong Kong-listed shares tumbled 10% as he demonstrated the bot answering questions, writing a poem as well as producing a video and image with prompts.
To date, 650 companies have said they will join the Ernie ecosystem, he added. Chinese state media outlets and a Shaolin temple were among the first sign-ups to become Ernie Bot partners.
The popularity of ChatGPT, backed by Microsoft (MSFT.O), has triggered a frenzied rush among Chinese tech giants and startups alike to develop a rival.
Baidu jumped to the forefront of the race after saying early last month it was close to completing a chatbot using its AI-driven deep learning model, Ernie - short for "Enhanced Representation through Knowledge Integration".
The company has touted its many years of heavy R&D investment in artificial intelligence and deep learning as one reason it is best placed to lead the race to develop a Chinese answer to ChatGPT. Baidu's research and development expenses in 2022 were 21.4 billion yuan ($3.1 billion), accounting for 22% of revenue.
Baidu plans to use Ernie Bot to revolutionise its search engine, by far the most dominant in China, as well as use it to increase efficiency in cloud, smart cars and household appliances, among other mainstream businesses.