Beijing: China's Baidu rolled out its ChatGPT rival ERNIE Bot to the public on Thursday, in a major leap for the country's tech sector as it aims to cash in on the global artificial intelligence gold rush.
The Chinese government introduced fresh regulations this month for AI developers, aiming to allow them to stay in the race with the likes of Microsoft and OpenAI but still tightly controlling information online.
ERNIE Bot is the first domestic AI app to be fully available to the public in China. It is not available outside the country.
"We are thrilled to share that ERNIE Bot is now fully open to the general public starting August 31," Baidu said in a statement on Thursday.
"In addition to ERNIE Bot, Baidu is set to launch a suite of new AI-native apps that allow users to fully experience the four core abilities of generative AI: understanding, generation, reasoning, and memory."
ERNIE Bot was released in March but its availability was limited.
By making it widely available, Baidu will be able to gain "massive" human feedback to improve the app at a swift pace, CEO Robin Li was quoted as saying in the statement.
Generative AI apps are trained on vast amounts of data as well as their interactions with users so they can answer questions, including complex ones, in human-like language.
The rapid success of US-based OpenAI's ChatGPT - which is banned in China - sparked an international race to develop rival apps, including image and video generators, but also widespread alarm about the potential for abuse and disinformation.
Chinese generative AI apps must "adhere to the core values of socialism" and refrain from threatening national security and promoting terrorism, violence, or "ethnic hatred", according to the guidelines published this month.
They included provisions for labelling AI-generated content and curtailing "false and harmful information".
Service providers must also conduct security assessments and submit filings on their algorithms to the authorities if their software is judged to have an impact on "public opinion", according to the rules.
Baidu is one of China's biggest tech companies, but has faced competition from other firms such as Tencent in various sectors.
In addition to AI, it has also looked to grow its cloud computing business and develop autonomous driving tech.
Bloomberg reported that another Chinese tech titan, the Hong Kong-listed SenseTime, has also received a green light from Beijing for its service.