Chinese search and artificial intelligence firm Baidu has announced that it plans to integrate its artificial intelligence AI Chatbot Ernie into its search services from March. The company, which is also known for its autonomous driving technology, is leading China’s efforts to create an equivalent of OpenAI’s ChatGPT chatbot. It plans to complete internal testing of Ernie Bot in March before making the service public.
Baidu CEO Robin Li said in an internal memo that Ernie Bot will be integrated across all of the company’s operations, including its search and cloud services. The company also plans to integrate Ernie into its smart car operating system and smart speaker.
The announcement resulted in a nearly 7% jump in Baidu’s stock price in New York in pre-market trading on Wednesday to more than $150 a share. The company also announced a $5 billion share buyback on Wednesday.
Baidu reported revenues of 33.1 billion yuan ($4.8 billion) for the quarter that ended in December, roughly the same as the same period in 2021. Most of Baidu’s revenue comes from its online marketing services, which generated 18.1 billion yuan ($2.62 billion) in sales in the last quarter. Its Apollo Go autonomous ride-hailing services provided 561,000 rides in the fourth quarter, up 162% from a year earlier.
After years of regulatory scrutiny following a crackdown on the technology sector and a sluggish economy battered by COVID-19, companies like Baidu look likely to invest more as China looks to the industry to revive the economy.
Baidu’s CEO believes that AI technology has reached a tipping point and all industries will inevitably go through transformation. He added that Baidu stands as the best example of the long-term growth of China’s AI market and is advancing at the forefront of this new wave.