China's gateway to AI dominance at CES 2018

Updated 2018-01-03 14:00:19 Global Times

Domestic tech companies to seek expansion at global event

Some Chinese tech companies have been busy getting ready for the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2018, an event that provides a global stage for companies showcasing their innovative gadgets, which will kick off on Tuesday (U.S. time) in Las Vegas.

It is the first time that companies like China's Siri-like voice recognition service provider iFlytek Co will participate in this annual event hosted by the U.S.-based Consumer Technology Association (CTA).

The company will introduce its flagship products such as the electronic translator, which so far can translate Chinese into seven languages including English, French, Japanese, Spanish, Tibetan, Uyghur and Korean, a move that will bring a real-time speech transcription tool to the U.S. market, iFlytek said in a document sent to the Global Times.

But iFlytek was not the only Chinese company that saw its power swell in 2017 thanks to wider application of artificial intelligence (AI) technologies in China, motivating it to look toward tapping into overseas markets.

"With 2017 being considered the year of the AI boom, the technology will be a hot topic during this year's CES," Wang Yanhui, head of the Shanghai-based Mobile China Alliance, told the Global Times.

One of the three major trends to look for at CES 2018 will be the narrow application of AI, including speech recognition, computer vision and machine learning, according to the official website of CTA.

Two other trends to look for are smart cities for connected people and voice computing.

At this year's event, 20,000 products will be launched, with featured products ranging from Internet of Things (IoTs) and robotics to intelligent machines and self-driving vehicles, the CTA website said.

"Last year's event was mainly about VR/AR [virtual reality/augmented reality], but those technologies did not meet market expectations later on," Wang said over the weekend.

During CES 2017, major players in the tech industry unveiled new products and highlighted VR, and in particular, U.S. chipmakers such as Qualcomm and Intel talked up the technology in their keynote speeches, media reported in January 2017.

"[Chinese] AI-powered firms will not let us down this year," Liu Dingding, a Beijing-based industry analyst, told the Global Times on Monday. As some applications of AI technologies are now "just around the corner," Chinese companies are likely to become leaders instead of followers in some domains such as speech recognition, computer vision and autonomous driving, he noted.

However, Chinese companies did not catch much attention at CES 2017, despite the fact that one-third of all participants came from China, the Beijing News reported in 2017.

Among the 1,300 Chinese companies that participated in the event last year, 652 came from Shenzhen, South China's Guangdong Province, which is seen as the world's manufacturing hub, the media report noted. But few new gadgets unveiled by Chinese firms were applauded by the audience, apart from Chinese-made drones.

"Usually, China's small- and medium-sized enterprises [SMEs] make up a large part of CES participants. When big players join the event, they will increasingly make the presence of Chinese tech firms felt," Wang said.

Rising innovation

Indeed, two major Chinese tech firms - e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding and internet search provider Baidu, Inc - are listed as key exhibitors at this year's CES.

Particularly, Beijing-based Baidu is set to unveil its autonomous driving system Apollo 2.0, the company told the Global Times.

Baidu also said Apollo provides a comprehensive and reliable all-in-one solution that supports all major features and functions of an autonomous vehicle, and Apollo 2.0, which is the latest version of the system, will enable cars to drive autonomously on simple urban roads. Meanwhile, the company will also unveil brand-new AI hardware powered by DuerOS, a conversational AI platform.

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