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Artificial Intelligence in China

Artificial intelligence (AI) words tag cloud text machines software

March 2016, while the whole world is gazing upon Seoul, Korea for the grand battle between AlphaGo and Lee Sedol, the subject of AI (Artificial Intelligence) is being widely discussed among enterprises and media. Meanwhile, AI, as a new concept, is being written into a crucial Chinese policy schema: the proposal of China’s thirteenth Five-Year Plan, which plays a significant role in China’s economical development in the next few years. Intelligent manufacturing and robotics development became one of the key elements in the project ‘Technological Innovation 2030’. Cultivating AI, intelligent hardware, new displays, and portable intelligent terminals, etc. are listed as new strategic industrial developments. In fact, as long ago as early 2015, after China announced that the ‘Made in China 2025’, and ‘Internet Plus’ plans are put into effect; AI was confirmed to be one of the eleven key industrial development focuses. AI’s importance was elevated up to national strategic level, with detailed supporting measurements put forward, and unreasonable regimes that previously blocked AI development were abandoned.

Handshake between woman and robot

According to the predictions of market research agencies, in the backdrop of rapid increase in global AI market, China’s AI market gross in 2015 is approximately 1.26 billion rmb, with the expectation of reaching the gross of 9.1 billion rmb in 2020. In the competition for this enormous profit, Baidu is undoubtedly leading the AI industry in China. As early as March 2015, Baidu’s CEO Robin Li (Li Yanhong), who is also a delegate of CPPCC (Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference), brought up the plan of ‘China Brain’ in the proposal of NPC (National People’s Congress) & CPPCC 2016 Annual Sessions. The plan calls for promoting AI’s improvement, and seizing the peak of technological revolution. Robin Li claims that ‘China Brain’ is about constructing the basic facilities for grand AI development. He suggests centralizing large-scale AI related services, and opening it to scientific research institutions, private enterprises, state owned enterprises, entrepreneurs, and other social groups. This creates a platform that allows people to experiment with speech recognition, visual recognition, natural language processing, and AI robotics, etc. The large-scale service that is mentioned above means are the service that are being provided for research facilities that are focused on human computer interaction, big data analysis, automated driving, smart medical diagnosis, smart drones, and robotic technologies for military and civilian use. In Baidu’s opinion, the competition in the Internet services is migrating from ‘Internet Plus’ to ‘AI Plus’ sooner rather than later. Starting from April 2016, Baidu is going to reconstruct research institutes, language processing, and image recognition departments that utilize AI. Furthermore, Baidu is going to remold its own technologies with AI in the future, and the planning of each product and technological system to be executed by AI.

Chinese industries have reached a consensus: the AI development plan and a series of policies made to support its research proposed during China’s thirteen Five-Year Plan is going to build a solid base in the regime aspect, which guarantees China having a firm grasp on the essential AI technological development stage in the next 10 years. Such actions lead to breaking the status quo of US leadership in AI development, ensuring China’s perpetual improvement in the science and technology realm, striving for a leading position globally.

After China provides a fair AI platform for all enterprises, a number of young companies and specialty enterprises will have equal opportunity with giants such as Baidu. In 2014, Mingqiang Li, who formerly served long-term for Tencent at the Tencent Guangzhou Research Institute, established Tupu Technology, with a focus on AI image recognition. At the moment, Tupu Technology provides services for Thunder, Kugou, WUBA, and various other Internet companies. Meanwhile, Tupu Technology also joined Qiniu, Rongcloud, and other cloud service platforms, becoming one of the major AI image recognition cloud platforms in China. In March 2016, the leader of Chinese AI speech service iFlytek and entrepreneur platform Alpha Startups jointly announced Angel Investment Plan for AI technologies. According to this plan, both companies are going to invest in projects that are AI related, such as online education, interactive entertainment, smart medical treatment, etc. Using the resources from both parties, this plan will assist entrepreneurs in AI industry to generate leaping developments. iFlytek currently spends 100 to 200 million rmb of profit in order to support iFly speech cloud, allowing entrepreneurs to use AI technology that iFly speech cloud provides at an inexpensive price. These actions effectively made establishing business in AI industry more accessible for entrepreneurs, and also respond to government policies at a better rate.

artificial intelligence: human and robot hands solving a puzzle

With increasing attention being paid to Internet industries by Chinese government over the past recent years, Chinese industries accumulated abundant foundation and resources for AI improvements. Now, the government has given a firm support to AI developments by policy changes. All enterprises that are related to the AI field are expected to follow up at a fair pace to ensure progress in AI development. It is certain that AI is going to achieve a booming increase of development in China for the next few years.


中国企业看人工智能

2016年3月,当全世界的目光聚焦在韩国首尔,关注阿尔法狗与李世石的人机大战的时候,有关人工智能的讨论在企业和媒体界被广泛讨论。而与此同时,人工智能作为一个新概念也被写入关乎未来几年中国经济发展的政策纲要——十三五规划草案。在“科技创新2030项目”中,智能制造和机器人成为重大工程之一;培育人工智能、智能硬件、新型显示、移动智能终端等,被列入战略性新兴产业发展行动。事实上,早在2015年初,中国宣布实施“中国制造2025”、“互联网+”行动后,就已经明确人工智能为行程新产业模式的11个重点发展领域之一,将发展人工智能提升到国家战略层面,提出具体支持措施,清理阻碍发展的不合理制度。

据市场调查公司预测,在全球人工智能市场高速增长的背景下,中国人工智能市场规模在2015年约为12.6亿元人民币,在2020年有望达到91亿元人民币。在争夺这个大蛋糕的过程中,百度无疑正在充当急先锋的角色。早在2015年3月,作为全国政协委员的百度公司CEO李彦宏就在2015年两会提案中建议设立“中国大脑”计划,推动人工智能发展,抢占新一轮科技革命制高点。李彦宏当时表示,“中国大脑”计划是要做一个关于人工智能的基础设施,把相应大规模的服务全集中建立起来,并开放给科研机构、民营企业、国有企业和创业者等社会各个层面,让大家在这个平台上尝试语音识别、视觉识别、自然语言理解、智能机器人等。这里面所说的大规模服务,是指在智能人机交互、大数据分析预测、自动驾驶、智能医疗诊断、智能无人飞机、军事和民用机器人技术等研究领域提供的服务。百度方面认为,互联网领域的竞争早晚要从“互联网+”进化到“人工智能+”。从2016年4月起,百度将用人工智能对研究院、语言、图像等部门进行重构。同时,百度将来还会用人工智能技术来改造百度所有的技术,各个产品和技术体系,都由人工智能来规划。

在中国产业界已经达成这样的共识,那就是在十三五期间出台国家层面的人工智能研发顶层设计和系列重大研发支撑计划,可以从制度上建立一个基础,以确保中国在未来10年内抓住人工智能最关键技术发展期,从研发实力和研发进展两个方面打破美国一家独大的局面,确保中国在科技进步浪潮中不断实现弯道超车,争取国际领先地位。

中国从政府层面为企业发展人工智能提供发展平台后,很多初创企业和专业性很强的企业也可以得到与百度这样的巨头一样的机会。2014年,曾长期供职于腾讯广州研究院的李明强创办了图普科技,专注于人工智能图片识别。目前,图普服务于迅雷、酷狗、58同城等多家互联网公司,同时入驻七牛云、融云等云服务平台,成为中国国内较大的人工智能图片识别云平台平台之一。2016年3月,中国智能语音服务龙头企业科大讯飞与创业平台阿尔法公社共同宣布了人工智能领域的联合天使投资计划。根据这一计划,双方将在人工智能领域进行批量投资,利用双方业界资源,帮助人工智能创业者实现跨越式发展。目前,科大讯飞每年要烧掉一两个亿的利润来支撑讯飞语音云,而创业者则能够以低廉的价格直接使用讯飞语音云提供的人工智能基础技术。这些支持措施使人工智能领域的创业门槛高度大大降低,同时也使政府层面提出的政策得到有效的落实。

随着近些年来中国政府对互联网领域的重视程度不断提高,中国企业逐步在人工智能发展方面积累下相对雄厚的基础和资源。目前,政府已经从政策上给予了明确的支持态度,处在相关产业链条上的各类型企业都希望踏准人工智能产业发展的步伐,在未来几年时间里,人工智能产业在中国国内将进入爆发式的增长期将是一件十分确定的事情。

Written by Yan Xue, LG CNS Blog’s Regular Contributor

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