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Artificial Intelligence speaks Chinese

From the 33rd floor of the office building has a breathtaking view. Toward the north, visitors look at densely forested hills. In the south, are the enticing sea and Hong Kong. “We want to remain attractive to our employees through our new location,” said BING Xia, Deputy Chief Executive for International Business at the Chinese startup Malong, headquartered in Shenzhen.

The company is just four years old. However, it has expanded so much that it had to move into new premises. The company operates additional offices in Beijing, Shanghai, Tokyo and Arkansas. Furthermore, Shenzhen City Government also supported the company in moving into the new premises. Chinese cities like Hangzhou, Xian and Shenzhen compete with each other and have a lot of attractive offers for innovative startups.

The company, founded by American Matthew Scott and Chinese HUANG Dinglong – the company name Malong is made up of their first names – deals with computer-aided vision, a subfield of artificial intelligence. “We are just in the early stages of development and cannot predict what computer vision will be able to do one day,” says BING Xia.

Nowadays, everyone is talking about facial recognition, in which China, with young companies such as Megiiv Technology and Sense Time, is leading technological development. Instead of identifying faces, Malong focuses on product recognition and works with retailers and consumer goods manufacturers worldwide. “Such cooperation is helpful for both sides. We understands the needs and difficulties of each industry better and our partner’s benefit from our services,” adds BING Xia.

Until now, consumers are faced with the problem that if they like a piece of furniture or clothing, for example, during the holidays, back at home, they are lacking the right words to describe shape, colour and pattern and are unable to find the item in search engines or in stores. Malong offers a solution: Consumers photograph the products and then upload the photos in an app. In a matter of seconds they can see which comparable models Malong’s partners have on offer. The product can then simply be ordered through the app. This technology also describes patterns and colours of fabrics of fashion designs without them having to manually describe them. Product descriptions can therefore be produced more efficiently and faster.

Malong has already taken new paths to gradually conquer the vast field of computerised vision. For example, with this technology, it will be possible to take less than a second to determine which parts of the brain are affected by a stroke based on computed tomography scans. According to Malong, this procedure is 308 times faster than the human eye. For patients and health insurance, the technology offers great opportunities. Diseases are diagnosed faster and more accurately than traditionally.

Recently Malong announced a cooperation with the University of Bern. The cooperation is a result of the agreement between the Canton of Bern and Shenzhen nearly four years ago. Both sides want to promote economic cooperation. In mid-November last year, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed in Shenzhen in the presence of Bern’s Economics Director Christoph Ammann. In the future, synergies between artificial intelligence and brain tomography will be explored in two research institutes in Bern and Shenzhen.

Attractive Prospects

 The company’s international reputation is in part due to its hiring choices. Malong has attracted international talents such as HUANG Weilin who leads the research department. Previously, HUANG Weilin obtained his doctorate in the prestigious Visual Geometry Group at the University of Oxford where he worked as a postdoctoral researcher. HUANG listed several reasons why he was drawn back home, despite his promising academic career. “At Malong, I can help people with my developments,” he emphasises. In addition, working with Malong does not have the anonymity of universities or large companies such as Alibaba or Tencent. Furthermore, his move to Malong did not mean leaving academia. About half of the published studies come from the research departments of companies, HUANG Weilin estimates.

Startups like Malong may one day be financially attractive. The employees are involved in the young companies through stock options. If the IPO or the company is sold, a lot of money can be generated. Just over a year ago, venture capital firm Softbank China Capital invested RMB 220 million (£25 million) in Malong. In August of last year, it was announced that Accenture, one of the world’s leading management consultancies, invested in the Chinese startup and signed a cooperation agreement.

Race between America and China

In parts of the Western world, there is still the persistent misconception that China is a world champion in copying and imitating and is unable to develop and bring innovative ideas to the market. But times have changed. Shenzhen, with young companies like Malong, is a stronghold of innovative and modern China.

China has just recently started play a role in artificial intelligence research. The theoretical foundations for artificial intelligence were created in American, British and Canadian institutes. Now, the next step is to develop business models. And that’s where China is leading.

According to Lee Kai-fu, who previously headed Google China and now invests in young Chinese high-tech companies as the head of Sinovation Ventures, China leads the future in artificial intelligence.

China has more than 800 million internet users who reveal a lot about themselves on the Internet

So far the practical application of artificial intelligence has faced the problem that there were not enough data and computers with high computing performance. This has now changed. China, with more than 800 million internet users sharing much about themselves online, provides the ideal environment to test the theoretical foundations of artificial intelligence. In addition there are powerful technologies and ambitious entrepreneurs who want to fulfil their dreams.

China has a moved ahead in all these fields of foreign competition. Malong is aware of this. “In the past, China had to catch up with foreign countries on already pre-tracked paths. Those days are over. Now we pave the way for the rest of the world.”

5 Things to look out for at the 2018 Tencent Global Partner Conference

On 1 November the 2018 Tencent Global Partner Conference will open in Nanjing Jiangsu Grand Theatre. This will be Tencent’s first industry conference after having gone through restructuring earlier this year. This will also mark the first event ahead of Tencent’s 20th anniversary this year. There are 5 things we are particularly looking forward to at the conference.

1. The release of Tencent’s 20th anniversary film “River”

Tencent’s 20th anniversary film is called “River” and will footage from the foundation of the company, developments over the past 20 years as well as the company’s vision. According to a company spokesperson the film has been named “River” to show the continuous forward movement of the Tencent. The film is said to be centred on Tencent’s mission to jointly build a “Digital China”. The film has sparked wide excitement amongst industry experts as it is expected to set the tone for the company’s future development.

2. Internet driven development

On 30 September Tencent announced the third group restructuring which many industry experts saw as Tencent’s attempt to focus on internet driven development.

The 2018 Tencent Global Partner Conference will see the attendance of China’s leading smart technology and artificial intelligence companies. Industry experts will be paying close attention during the conference at Tencent’s strategy for internet driven development and future goals.

3. Science and Culture Show

Over 125 companies will be presenting their project around one of the three themes at the conference: Innovation Block, Cultural Garden and Science and Technology Forest.

The Science and Technology forest will see projects like “sister” robots, and vehicles equipped with Tencent’s automatic driving system. Projects in the Culture Garden will include a DreamWorks art show. The Innovation Block features the latest innovations of the smart industries from everyday routines to an augmented reality mobile phone tour of Yunnan.

4. The Future of Speech

This session of the conference is especially focused about how speech and language will be used in the future across industries. It will look at how speech will affect the creative industries as well as how new technologies will use speech as a direct communication tool. The session aims to connect researchers, entrepreneurs and artists to explore the use of speech and its future application.

5. New Wenchuang Open Day

The conference will host the two-day open day at the 6th National Theatre of the Jiangsu Grand Threatre. China’s leading cultural and creative industry representatives have confirmed their attendance and the opening will simultaneous screen popular film and television programs. The open day will also host a creative exchange where guests can share short videos, vlogs, movies, TV series and etc.

Are you planning to attend the 2018 Tencent Conference? These are the 5 things we are most looking forward to. What are you looking forward to? Let us know in the comments.

World Artificial Intelligence Conference: Where is China’s AI technology heading?

The 2018 World Artificial Intelligence Conference was opened on Monday 17 September 2018 in Shanghai under the theme of “A new Era Empowered by Artificial Intelligence”. The conference saw attendance from over 200 experts and entrepreneurs form over 40 countries discussing which challenges China’s AI sector would be addressing in the upcoming years.

China is considered a leader in AI and has a significant advantage towards its western competitors due to the large number of data Chinese companies have been able to collect from Chinese users. For Eye Cool’s CEO ZHOU Jun, a Chinese AI technology firm, the challenges in the AI sector are obvious. In his conference speech the entrepreneur highlighted the importance AI is going to play in the cyberspace security sector in the upcoming years.

Cyberspace security is becoming a new challenge the AI sector is addressing”

While AI has the potential to significantly contribute to increased cyberspace security, the area poses a political quagmire. Risks of data and personal privacy disclosure, vicious cyber-attacks, etc. pose a significant risk to the security of sensitive social and national security information. However, for entrepreneur ZHOU Jun these problems will resolve with the growth of the AI sector.

Businesses until now have been prioritising AI development in the finance and transportation sector as the increased efficiency allows to optimise company spending. Yet, developing AI in the security sector is dependent on having a comprehensive data set which spans across all sectors. Having pioneered the use of AI in financial services security over 20 years ago, ZHOU Jun is certain that the cyberspace security is the next step for developments in AI. However the entrepreneur also cautioned that progress is also dependent on companies building stronger relationships with people.

“Companies must become more people-orientated to accelerate the maturity of AI. Only by working together can we reduce security risks.”

China’s AI sector is heading towards a more interconnected sector to increase security on the cyberspace and although AI technology is making rapid progress, communication with humans is now moving into the centre of AI development.

Global Perspective

In his recent book, AI Superpowers: China, Silicon Valley, and the New World Order, internationally renowned AI expert Dr. Kai-Fu Lee outlines the global trends in AI. According to Dr. Kai-Fu Lee, China will lead in areas where massive data and maniacal focus lead to better products (such as Internet applications, mobile applications, payment and commerce applications, and computer vision and speech applications). But US will lead in areas where China doesn’t have quality data (such as financial and health applications), as well as areas which require cutting-edge technologies (such as autonomous vehicles).  New research breakthroughs are more likely to come from US than from China. The UK government has made a commitment to boost the UK’s position in AI through a sector deal. It is estimated that AI will add £232 billion to the UK economy by 2030.