Machines that can impeccably synthesize the human voice, assist judges in sentencing, and tell customers whether a dress is a good fit, have been displayed at the second World Intelligence Congress in Tianjin.
Riding the global waves of artificial intelligence (AI), China aims to improve the productivity and inject new momentum into its economy by encouraging more players to tap the fledging industry.
By June 2017, about one-fourth of the world's 2,542 AI companies were in China, where around 15,700 AI patents were filed, ranking second after the United States, according to the China Internet Network Information Center.
"China should seize opportunities to boost innovation in deep learning, smart algorithms and chips, and modernize industries with AI technologies," Lin Nianxiu, deputy head of the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), told a room of entrepreneurs, researchers and policy-makers at the congress, which was held from May 16 to 18.
NDRC is China's top economic planning agency.
In July last year, the State Council issued a plan for new generation AI, pledging to make the industry a major new growth engine and improve people's life by 2020 and make the country the world's center and leader for AI innovation by 2030.
China's AI industry output last year was 18 billion yuan (about 2.85 billion U.S. dollars) and value of related industries reached 220 billion yuan, according to the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology.
"The development of intelligent technologies is not only the endogenous driving force for China's economic upgrade, but contributes to the prosperity of the world as well," according to a survey of 408 intelligent companies by the Chinese Institute of New Generation Artificial Intelligence Development Strategies (CINGAIDS).
China's high-tech big names are investing heavily in AI innovation, with Baidu in automated driving, Alibaba in AI cities, Tencent in medicine and health, and iFlytek in intelligent voices, according to the survey.
Still, China lags behind developed countries in AI theory, algorithm, materials, core components, and even talent.
Most existing Chinese AI companies were founded between 2010 and 2016 amid intense policy incentives, the survey said.
To catch up with the global AI leaders, 18 provinces, regions and municipalities in China have introduced new policies to promote AI-related industries, while 27 provincial-level regions have announced plans to build AI industrial parks.
Wan Gang, chairman of the China Association for Science and Technology and former Minister of Science and Technology, said Chinese companies are quite competitive in image recognition, voice translation and behavioral analysis, with remarkable achievements in intelligent robotics, automated shops, machine translation, shared and driverless vehicles.
AI technologies are now widely applied in China in the fields of city planning, smart transportation, social governance, health, agriculture and national security.