Beijing-based search engine giant changes showcase to closed-door event for firms, citing ‘strong demand’.

China’s tech giant Baidu has called off a livestreamed public event to promote its ChatGPT rival Ernie.

Baidu said on Monday it had cancelled a planned showcase that would have been open to the media and the public in favour of a closed-door meeting with companies that are testing the artificial-intelligence-powered bot.

Baidu, China’s biggest search engine provider, said it had changed the format of the event to cater to “strong demand” from 120,000 firms that have lined up for the chance to test Ernie.

Baidu unveiled Ernie to a muted reaction earlier this month, joining a rush of companies rolling out rivals to OpenAI’s ChatGPT, which has taken the tech world by storm since its launch last November.

Baidu’s shares fell after a prerecorded demonstration by Chief Executive Robin Li on March 16 showed that Ernie lacked features included in Chat GPT’s follow-up GPT-4, including the ability to generate text in response to an image. The firm’s shares later rebounded strongly as users shared their experiences of the platform online.

Tech analysts say that China’s efforts to emulate Chat GPT have been hampered by Beijing’s strict controls on the internet, which provides the sources of information chatbots use to emulate human speech, although regional versions like Ernie could still find success in the domestic market.

The Chinese government has pledged to ramp up support for the development of AI, and the country’s tech giants, including Huawei, Alibaba and Tencent, are working on their own versions of the technology.



Al Jazeera and news agencies




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