Baidu IME offers VIP with AI & seller tools

After extensive consideration, Baidu’s transition from being just an “input tool” to a full-fledged “AI creation tool” is now introducing a premium paid service. Recently, Baidu Input Method updated to version 12.2.0, which mainly introduced “Baidu Input Method VIP.” The pricing for this service is competitively set, with an introductory monthly offer of ¥5.8 for the first month and a regular price of ¥22.8 per month thereafter. A quarterly subscription starts at ¥58 for the first term and ¥88 for subsequent terms, while an annual subscription costs ¥188 for the first year and ¥288 for each year after.

The VIP package for Baidu Input Method includes free access to themes, fonts, AI-generated avatars, wallpapers, enhanced AI writing features, inspirational quotes, and the ability to post longer content on social circles without it being folded or truncated. This bundle includes premium products from the store and features Baidu’s AI functionalities, making the AI services, rather than the aesthetic benefits like skins and fonts, the core of the VIP membership.

Based on information released by Baidu, the “Super Writing” feature of the Baidu Input Method is a full-scene AI creation assistant that operates on an in-house “intelligent prompt generation model.” It intelligently recognizes user intentions and creates corresponding instructions to ensure the generated content meets user needs more accurately. The model bolsters communication efficiency and effectiveness across various complex social interactions. “Super Writing” comes with features tailored to different scenarios such as “high EQ communication,” “prolific commenting,” “picture captioning,” and “short video text pairing,” which assist users in drafting and polishing their copy.

Baidu’s vision of integrating Input Method with an “AI large model” results in tools that are smart, personalized, and context-aware. Even after more than a year, most of the AI models on the domestic market are still largely confined to chatbots, with limited functionalities extending to content generation for images and far less for videos. Embedding AI into productivity tools is also rare. The Input Method has thus become a primary gateway for ordinary users to experience the allure of generative AI.

Traditionally, input methods are frequently used out of necessity, serving as a bridge for everyday internet communication, writing articles, creating spreadsheets, building presentations, or even coding. However, before the advent of AI, the innovation in input methods stagnated following the introduction of features like whole sentence input, predictive typing, and cloud-synced dictionaries.

Today, the factors influencing the use of input methods have evolved from typing speed and word prediction accuracy to the speed of the user’s thoughts, with “thinking while typing” becoming a common challenge for many users. AI’s appeal shines here by taking over some of the user’s cognitive load, thereby enhancing intellectual output. For instance, if a user captures a short video but struggles with composing a corresponding text, “Super Writing” can step in to help.

Moreover, AI’s ability to perceive emotions allows for high-EQ communication. Baidu Input Method, as an example, demonstrated “Super Writing’s” capability to automatically generate comforting messages for friends by using the Wenxin Yanxin large model. However, rather than using local processing power, Baidu Input Method’s AI function operates through cloud services to access this large model.

Such a design inevitably leads to a delay when interfacing with the input method, a common issue at present. Notably, even users subscribing to ChatGPT Plus may experience waiting times during peak use of GPT-4. Since input methods are expected to provide instant feedback, any delay might lead to user frustration and abandonment of the AI feature.

Currently, Baidu Input Method’s AI functionalities are still exploratory, appealing mostly to early adopters keen on trying new tech. However, one particular VIP feature stands out for its practical utility: the “WeChat Moments Unfold” function. This feature allows users to post longer content on WeChat Moments without triggering the platform’s automatic folding mechanism, making it essential for online marketers.

In spring 2021, WeChat introduced this folding feature to prevent the proliferation of merchant adverts on Moments. The feature was designed to target promotional activities, gifting for likes, and advertisements – cluttering up what was meant to be a space for personal sharing. Yet, the VIP feature of the Baidu Input Method cleverly bypasses WeChat’s content-folding algorithm by recreating the text input rather than copying it via the clipboard, a tactic akin to retyping the message by hand. Given the rivalry between Baidu and Tencent, it’s not surprising that Baidu is leveraging the “essential for online merchants” feature to attract VIP subscribers, but it raises questions about the fairness of such competitive practices.

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