Baidu, China’s largest search engine, announced to the world that it has launched a new digital assistant similar to that of Google Now and Apple’s Siri. The digital assistant, called Duer, utilizes artificial intelligence to process voice requests to recommend and connect users with services such as restaurant reservations, buying movie tickets and booking flights.
As Chinese users rely more and more on their mobile phones to make online purchases, particularly for food deliveries and reservations, Internet giants are all competing for ways to capitalize on this opportunity. Baidu’s Duer was created to do just that.
Baidu chairman and founder Robin Li Yanhong stated that, “In the past, only the privileged few - those in very senior positions in companies or other organizations - had personal assistants. With Duer, every ordinary person can now have a powerful personal assistant who can provide valuable life services - for free.”
Duer will soon expand to include housekeeping, beauty, ride-hailing, education, travel and healthcare services.
Similar to the “Hello Siri” command on iPhones, the Duer app can be activated by saying “Hello Duer” into a user’s mobile phone.
Li Yanhong touts that the Duer program considers location and relevant sales and promotions when calculating search requests such as “What are some good Hunanese eateries nearby me?” The program also adds tags to provide users with more specific information such as weather a hotel is non-smoking.
The program will also direct users to merchants that already use Baidu’s platforms. Specifically, Duer will direct users to merchants who support Baidu. The process, however, is transparent as opposed to the claims currently lodged against Google regarding its “rigging” of search results based on the amount of money sponsors pay to Google.
Google’s digital assistant, Google Plus, is currently the most popular on the worldwide market. It has more than 1 billion active users across the globe, however it does not function correctly in mainland China. Google services are currently blocked in that region.
Other rivals besides Google Plus and Siri include Facebook’s M and Microsoft’s Cortana.