Baidu, the largest search engine company in China, is set to debut a new AI chatbot service similar to OpenAI's ChatGPT in March, according to a Bloomberg report.

The application will be initially embedded in the main search services and will provide conversation-style search results. The tool's foundation will be Baidu's Ernie system, a large-scale machine-learning model trained on data over several years. A Baidu representative declined to comment on the development.

OpenAI's ChatGPT has been a popular platform since its public debut in November, attracting over a million users in just a few days. Companies such as Microsoft are investing billions to develop real-world applications for AI, while others are capitalizing on the hype to raise funds. Baidu has spent billions of dollars researching AI in a years-long effort to transition from online marketing to deeper technology.

Apart from Baidu, several Chinese startups are also exploring generative AI and have attracted investors like Sequoia and Sinovation Ventures. Despite a heavily censored domestic internet, ChatGPT has also piqued the interest of Chinese internet users who have shared screenshots of surprising conversations with the AI bot on local social media.