Tech savvies' views on China's AI 'fever'

Updated 2016-10-24 16:16:41
A robot paints a portrait for a visitor during the 2016 World Robot Conference in Beijing, Oct 20, 2016.

A robot paints a portrait for a visitor during the 2016 World Robot Conference in Beijing, Oct 20, 2016.

China's artificial intelligence (AI) market is set to boom as both the government and enterprises look to develop the sector.

According to analysis company iResearch, the market scale of AI in China reached about 1.2 billion yuan in 2015, and it is expected to grow 50 percent each year in the next five years. The company estimated that by 2020, the market size will reach 9.1 billion yuan.

During the ongoing World Robotics Conference (WRC) in Beijing, China Daily interviewed several domestic entrepreneur pioneers to explore the behind-the-scenes reasons of AI's growth.

1. Some voices in the industry reckoned that thanks to developments in the internet around the world, the R&D growth rate of AI robots will be faster than people's expectations, and we will witness a boom in the industry similar to the rise of the smartphone sector, in a very short period. How do you evaluate the future development potential of China's AI R&D in the robotic sector?

Yu Kai, founder of the Beijing Horizon Robotics Technology Co Ltd, a startup that builds chips to power AI, told China Daily that AlphaGo definitely showcased AI's muscles to the public.

"Thanks to the tremendous improvements on big data and computing technologies, AI has seen rapid growth in recent years," Yu said.

Yu was the former head of online search giant Baidu's Institute of Deep Learning. "Many tech startups and investors have thrown their hats into the industry while the real life-changing moment brought by AI has yet to come," he said.

According to Yu, Horizon Robotics aims at deploying AI on more than 1,000 devices, providing "intelligence" features including perception, interaction, understanding and decision-making in no more than ten years.

"The world is brewing the next revolution on science and technology-- AI-powered innovative robotics will be widely deployed and implemented in every aspects of people's daily works and lives," he said.

Hu Yu, vice president of Iflytek Co Ltd, China's voice recognition giant, said he felt optimistic about AI development in China. The industry advantages of China's internet and mobile internet development will help the country dominate in AI's R&D across the globe.

Taking Iflytek's open platform -- a voice recognition service that provides human-machine interaction implementation - as an example, Hu said: "currently, the overall terminal user base of the platform has reached 890 million and the daily interaction rate has overtaken 3 billion by early October".

The company has also signed partnership agreements with more than 200,000 startups to deploy the service, up 186 percent compared to the previous year.

Zhuang Yongjun, chief technology officer at Qihan Technology Co Ltd, a Shenzhen-based company focused on robotics innovation, artificial intelligence and video analysis technologies, noted that the R&D abilities of Chinese robot manufacturers had become stronger and technology-driven companies had mushroomed in recent years.

"The more things the hardware is able to do, the greater the demand for AI will be," Zhuang said.

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