Baidu soars after analysts give Ernie a thumbs-up after test-run

BAIDU Inc surged more than 12% on Friday after brokerages including Citigroup tested the company’s just-unveiled ChatGPT-like service and granted it their preliminary approval.

The Chinese firm’s shares gained its most on an intraday basis in more than a month. In a meeting on Thursday, Citigroup put “Ernie Bot” through its paces and found that, while it wasn’t perfect, it could answer most complicated or absurd questions put forward, analysts including Alicia Yap wrote.

Baidu’s leap reverses a 6.4% loss on Thursday after founder Robin Li debuted China’s answer to ChatGPT via recorded video, disappointing investors hoping for a real-time demo of the country’s highest-profile entry in a race to dominate the technology.

Some of the questions posed in Baidu’s videos appeared rudimentary and addressable by typical search engines, such as: “Which part of China does the Three Body Problem author come from?” Many users took to Chinese social media to poke fun at the event, with one user calling it a “low-energy” debut.

Thursday’s launch was to have been a watershed moment for China’s technology industry, lifting the lid on how AI has progressed in the world’s largest Internet economy. The omission of a live demo raised questions over Ernie’s ability to match OpenAI’s ChatGPT, which has both impressed and worried users since its November launch.

Chinese AI efforts lag their US rivals at the moment, though they should catch up over time thanks to vast data hoards and experience with rapid rollouts, according to industry pioneer and bestselling author Kai-Fu Lee. – BLOOMBERG

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