Shanghai event underscores benefits of artificial intelligence
Shanghai was the setting earlier this month for a global event showcasing the use of artificial intelligence for a wide variety of commercial purposes.
Ranging from general-purpose chips to financial technology, and from smart healthcare to wearable devices, the benefits of AI were highlighted at the Fifth World Artificial Intelligence Conference, or WAIC, which took place from Sept 1 to 3.
In particular, a group of intelligent robots equipped with AI technologies attracted widespread attention.
Experts said the goal for AI research and development is to improve human livelihoods.
Isabel Ge Mahe, Apple's vice-president and managing director for China, said, "We are full of hope for the future of machine learning, as we strongly believe it can inspire more innovation, therefore improving people's lives."
CloudMinds Robotics Co, which is based in Shanghai, has launched Cloud Ginger 2.0, a new smart service robot that can perform a variety of functions, including reception work, tour guidance, elderly care, cleaning, as well as education and scientific research.
Shaped like a human, and equipped with nimble hands, the robot has 41 intelligent flexible executors and sensors. It can listen, speak, see and move based on multiple cloud intelligent technologies.
Bill Huang, the company's founder and CEO, said, "Reports show there will be about 310 million people who are 60 or older in China by 2035－offering promising market demand for service robots."
Xiaozi, the company's humanoid robot, is scheduled to make its debut by 2025, Huang said, adding, "By that year, Xiaozi will be able to stand on her own two feet to serve Chinese families in day-today life."
Adopting its name from an ancient Chinese legend about seven fairies, Xiaozi will be equipped with more than 60 intelligent flexible executors, enabling it to walk on two legs, and to move just like humans. It will also assist seniors to navigate flights of stairs.
Liu Yu, executive vice-president and chief commercial officer at Shanghai MicroPort MedBot (Group) Co, said in a speech at WAIC: "Medical service is probably one of the things that people care about the most, because health is most important. To meet such requirements, we provide solutions that cover operations from head to toe."
The company's robots, which include those for vascular intervention, orthopedic operations and laparoscopic procedures, can conduct minimally invasive surgeries.
The laparoscopic surgery robot, which stood out among more than 800 projects, was one of the five winners of this year's Super AI Leader Award for its special contribution to AI.
Combining the technologies for 5G, augmented reality, intelligent surgery comprehension, and automotive surgical platforms, the robot conducts surgery by using X-ray vision and a brain like that of a human.
"Now, with the help of a robot, doctors can perform laparoscopic operations in shielded rooms by using a computer mouse. Such advances have greatly reduced the difficulties of performing such surgery," Liu said.
Since December, nearly 300 clinical surgeries, all of them highly complicated, have been conducted by the laparoscopic robot.
Liu said: "The outlook for robotic surgery is extremely promising, and we are going to develop more such robots and reduce the cost of surgery performed by them. Our fundamental goal is to make all surgeries easy to conduct."
Meanwhile, Shanghai Xiaojia Data Technology Co launched iSward, its intelligent mowing robot, at this year's WAIC.
Chen Xiao, the company's CEO, said: "There are about 250 million private lawns and gardens globally, of which some 80 million are in member states of the European Union, and 100 million are in the United States, creating a market of between $60 billion and $70 billion globally.
"In contrast, the market for autonomous mowing robots is merely $1 billion. As technologies are continually upgraded and labor costs rise, this market could exceed $10 billion in coming years."
Compared with a conventional robotic mower, which can barely meet demand for lawns or gardens of more than 1,000 square meters, iSward is suitable for those with a maximum area of 5,000 sq m, and the robot's autonomous navigation technology ensures the work is completed with maximum efficiency, Chen added.
"This is because the product is incorporated with visional AI and satellite positioning technologies," Chen said.
Su Hua, global senior vice-president and president of the China region for Infineon Technologies, which designs and manufactures a range of semiconductor products, said that in many cutting-edge areas of technology, China has a number of companies that can lead the nation's low-carbon development and that of the world as a whole.
Clobotics, a company based in Shanghai that focuses on computer vision and machine learning technology, tapped into this trend by giving Sparrow, its latest wind blade inspection and maintenance robot, its China debut at WAIC.
George Yan, founder and CEO of Clobotics, said the robot collects blade data via the company's self-developed robotic platform to conduct maintenance and repair work－enhancing the efficiency of wind power.
Sparrow has entered the final testing stage, and will soon be put into service nationwide, Yan added.
Flexiv, a company based in Shanghai that provides innovative, ready-to-use software solutions to customers in a variety of industries, displayed its adaptive robot Rizon at WAIC.
Based on AI technologies, Rizon can perform nucleic acid tests and provide traditional Chinese medical massage and therapy, among other tasks.
Deep Robotics, based in Hangzhou, capital of Zhejiang province, presented China's first industrial waterproof quadruped robot, the Jueying X20, which can easily step over an obstacle 20 centimeters high, navigate a stairwell, and climb a 30-degree slope. The robot can also adapt to a variety of environments and conditions such as grasslands, sand, snowfields, gravel roads and puddles.
Cai Yinghua, vice-president of Alibaba Group and president of Alibaba Cloud Global Sales, said: "More and more of our enterprises are directly or indirectly applying AI. Some 58 percent of Chinese enterprises are applying it, while globally, the proportion is merely 35 percent."
Internet giant Tencent has applied AI to space exploration by collaborating with the National Astronomical Observatories to discover pulsars and explore the universe. A pulsar is thought to be a rapidly rotating neutron star that emits regular pulses of radio waves and other electromagnetic radiation at rates of up to 1,000 pulses per second.
A plan to explore the stars, launched last year, has discovered 22 pulsars through leading computer vision technology from Tencent's YouTu Lab, an AI research house. The technology helps process huge amounts of data received by China's Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Radio Telescope, or FAST, the world's largest single-dish and most sensitive radio telescope.
Wu Yunsheng, vice-president of Tencent Cloud and general manager of Tencent's YouTu Lab, said that with the further integration of digital technology and the real economy, AI development will not only result in technological breakthroughs, but also help industrial applications better meet various social demands.
Industry experts said that regardless of AI's rapid development, more efforts are needed to promote its wider applications, both in terms of technology and commercialization.
Robin Li, co-founder, chairman and CEO of search engine Baidu, said the key factor for AI's success is persistence, which is especially true for technological innovation.
Clas Neumann, senior vice-president and head of the Global SAP Labs Network, said that as a technology, AI should help people make the right decisions. If only people and AI can work together, the latter can be better applied.
With its heightened global influence and appeal, WAIC celebrated its fifth edition by helping Shanghai in its ambition to build a world-class, sophisticated industrial AI cluster.
At the conference's closing ceremony, 25 AI industrial projects with total investment of about 15 billion yuan ($2.15 billion) were signed. In the past four years, WAIC witnessed more than 600 corporate collaborations and 155 major projects with combined investment of 110.7 billion yuan.
As Shanghai becomes the heartland for China's innovative AI development, WAIC has developed into an important platform for promoting AI industrial communications and collaborations.
Gong Zheng, mayor of Shanghai, said the city has basically formed a complete industrial chain, and the scale of AI has grown significantly.
Last year, the combined output value of AI enterprises in the city with annual revenue of 20 million yuan or more surpassed 300 billion yuan, Gong added.
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