"Ai" in Chinese means "love".
But even Chinese people are starting to think of artificial intelligence when they see the abbreviation "AI".
As the concept again gathers momentum, it's a good time to reintroduce you to it.
You may already know digital assistants like Google Now, Siri and Cortana. But AI is much wider and deeper than these consumer products. Here are some areas in which it has made a difference.
For the sake of health
AI can help today's doctors give more accurate diagnoses.
Before AI, patients' medical history in China was written on paper. But people could get careless and lose their data.
It's much harder for computers to forget. So modern hospitals now store patients' medical histories in their own databases. And as more data is collected, doctors can use AI to analyze local people's unique health characteristics.
This can help them see the bigger picture, and could reveal why a patient is sick.
Yes, it's big data mining. AI is critical in this field because it can replace humans for the dull and depressing job of finding meaningful patterns in a sea of raw data.
That's just one fraction of what AI can do in a hospital.
In general, AI can thrive wherever there's massive data.
With AI becoming mature, enterprises have been keen to integrate AI into their business to gain efficiency and reduce costs.
One of the most common services you may have enjoyed is AI customer service assistants.
Companies use AI technology to analyze language and speech from customers to give them prompt and proper responses.
Some AI customer service assistants – front-end AI – powered bots - provide direct answers to customers' basic queries and greatly decrease handling time by humans. A front-end bot deployed by China Merchants Bank can reportedly handle between 1.5 and two million customer conversations per day, saving thousands of additional employees.
Other companies are applying the "AI-assisted human agent" model to improve customer service. These AI assistants are not just able to provide basic information that customers search. They can handle phone calls, "read" customers' emotions by processing the context and natural language, and provide suggestions to human agents. That means they help cope with different cases to give appropriate responses.
It's awkward for reporters to mention this because newswriting bots could soon replace them.
But news agencies have been very open to the idea of automatic story generation.
Scores in sports news, weather reports, and financial indexes are all within AI's capability. AI can even go further as some companies are dedicated to generating intelligent comments and recommendations based on structured data in multiple languages at a much faster speed.
With integration and cross-fertilization among AI and other fields, remarkable successes have been made "in various component tasks, such as speech recognition, image classification, autonomous vehicles, machine translation, legged locomotion, and question-answering systems," according to Stephen Hawking, one of the world's most renowned physicists and mathematicians.
We are witnessing a strong development momentum for AI. Will it one day surpass us human beings? What do you think?