via Forbes : China Is Investing Heavily In Artificial Intelligence, And Could Soon Catch Up To The U.S.
The buzzword among the business and tech communities in China for the past year has been ‘AI’, or artificial intelligence. Artificial intelligence, which allows software to “learn” human ways of thinking, is being incorporated into the largest e-commerce platforms, including Baidu, Alibaba, and Tencent, as well as into data-intensive traditional sectors. With strong government backing and concentrated research in this area, AI is poised to drive China’s economy forward toward higher levels of growth.
Big plans for AI
China is developing artificial intelligence in improving the capabilities of robotics, developing driverless cars, divining consumer preferences, inventory forecasting, selling enhanced products, and marketing goods and services. According to Liu Lihua, Vice Minister of Industry and Information Technology, China has thus far applied for 15,745 AI patents.
Wan Gang, the Minister of Science and Technology, stated this past Friday that China plans to launch a national AI plan, which will strengthen AI development and application, introduce policies to contain risks associated with AI, and work toward international cooperation. The plan will also provide funds to back these endeavors. Some municipalities also support AI research programs. Beijing, for example, is home to the CAS Institute of Automation, a consortium of universities and firms that provides venture capital funding of 1 billion RMB ($150 million) to AI development. Zhejiang province has also embraced AI programs. Already, Geely Automobile in Zhejiang is using intelligent manufacturing and internet marketing services based on AI to boost sales.
BAT leading the way
China’s BAT, or Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent, is leading the way for AI in China. Baidu was the first Chinese company to embark upon research in AI, using a system known as Duer to be used in home devices and driverless cars. Driverless auto software provided by Baidu will be made available to car manufacturers under the Apollo Project. Alibaba is using AI to forecast regional order quantities and to improve logistics efficiency, while Tencent has released a platform for deep learning using social data.
Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent have been vying for top talent in AI in order to become leaders in this area. Making headlines several days ago, Alibaba lured Ren Xiaofeng from Amazon.com to lead its own technology lab, which aims to make headway in artificial intelligence. Tencent brought Baidu’s AI expert Zhang Tong on board in March. In 2014, Baidu poached Andrew Ng from the Google Brain project to lead the Baidu Research Institute (though he recently stepped down).