“I, Robot”: Chinese AI Takes Us into the Future

16/11/2018

Robots will replace humans? Hotels and restaurants run entirely by AI or TV news broadcasted by android anchormen, is not fantasy, this in China is real. A new power entirely “Made in China” is raising

 

Western countries still have difficulties to understand how PRC “Great Leap” in  hi-tech sector is changing the world. What awaits us at the end of Chinese innovation plan is something that we are no longer able to imagine. But Beijing knows where the country is going. China is ready to became next hi-tech pole.

The goal to become an AI superpower is scheduled to be reached by 2030, but the great Asian power does not seem to waste time. Thanks to the Made in China 2025 plan, the Dragon is already very close to rewriting the global geography of hi-tech innovation but it now aims to bring AI into everyday life.

 

According to Chinese leadership, robotics will be a key cog in “Made in China 2025” strategy. PRC’s robot-maker will dominate their domestic market, thus the goal is to supply 50% of local demand by 2025, rising to 70% by 2025.

 

As the analysis of the Zurich Polytechnic highlights, the rise of China in AI is at a good point, considering that it has surpassed the US by number of publications and that the major Chinese companies that are investing in AI have offices in the Silicon Valley, including the search engine Baidu and the e-commerce giant Alibaba.

 

I robot - robots - Drinks production plant in China - cifnews

©123.rf. Drinks production plant in China. As Chinese leadership stressed out, According to Chinese leadership, new technologies will be a key cog in “Made in China 2025”.

 

Within its Next Generation Artificial Intelligence Development Plan, the PRC is developing AI in key areas such as safety and everyday life, taking us directly into the future we had only imagined while we were children.

While Chinese AI innovations are quickly changing the population’s daily life, Chinese people are trying out new technologies with enthusiasm. An example is a payment through facial recognition of which the Alibaba platforms are the forerunners.

 

Just a few days ago, AI technology was fundamental in the success of the Alibaba’s “Single Day” , whose logistics company Cainiao Network used robots with automated driving (AGV) to process 1bn orders.

 

Lately, the robotics market is the hi-tech sector that has seen more Chinese innovations. In the last few months, the great Asian country has launched several AI initiatives in order to improve efficiency and lower costs in the consumer services field. In 2017, China purchased up to 141,000 industrial robots, but three-quarters of that came from foreign imports.

The Middle Kingdom’s plan is to reach independence from foreign imports and thanks to robots at the service of tourism, catering, and information too, China confirms its technological leadership once again.
From what we see, it will easily dominate the market well before 2030.

One of the latest successful experiments in the hi-tech field of artificial intelligence is certainly the construction of the first automated hotel in China, more precisely in Hangzhou. The idea launched by Alibaba is to put intelligent interactive technologies at the service of the tourism industry and of hotel guests.

 

I, robot - robots - Hangzhou is home of the first robot restaurant - cifnews

©Adobe Photo. As home to Alibaba, Hangzhou has earned the title of ‘e-commerce capital of China’.

 

Called FlyZoo Hotel, the structure hosts a robot at the reception that through the facial recognition deals with the registration of guests and then send the data to the national security system.

In this hotel, various routine operations are automated for an experience with the least possible human interference. Doors that open through facial recognition, domestic appliances that respond to the use of voice but also robots with which the guest could interact through hand gestures and voice commands. This robotic intelligence is called Space Egg and combines AGV technology with communication and facial recognition abilities.

 

I, robot - robots - the flyzoo hotel is entirely run by robots - cifnews

©Alibaba AI Labs. After trialling the service robot at hotels, A.I. Labs will determine whether it’s suitable for use in hospitals, restaurants, and offices.

 

With a staff almost entirely composed of robots, FlyZoo Hotel also provides a delivery service directly to the guest’s door that works with an AI system managed by AliGenie, an intelligent voice assistant developed by Alibaba AI Labs’ smart speaker company, Tmall Genie.

 

“The robot will be the ultimate assistant for guests who want everything quickly and conveniently at their fingertips,” says Lijuan Chen, General Manager of Alibaba AI Labs.

 

The robotic hotel is not the only example of androids at the service of the customer. On October 28, the first fully robot-run restaurant opened in Beijing, a project by Ying Hai Holding born from the collaboration of the well-known Haidilao hotpot chain and the Japanese technology giant Panasonic.

 

I, robot - robots - A robot serves a guest on at the futuristic FlyZoo Hotel - cifnews

©IC. A robot serves a guest on Monday at Alibaba’s futuristic FlyZoo Hotel in the eastern city of Hangzhou.

 

According to Jun Yamashita – Ying Hai Holding manager – the idea arises from the need to expand the Chinese chain, however, blocked by the huge personnel cost, “so Haidilao is shifting earlier to an operation that does not rely so much on manual labor. That’s where Panasonic’s technology comes in.”

This fully automated restaurant operates via radio frequency identification (RFID) attached to every object that communicates with robotic arms to select the right dish. The android waiter then delivers the dishes at the table where the customer is left to cook them inside the spicy pot. The system then stores preferences for future visits.

 

 

Automation is what has allowed the company to lower the costs and to increase efficiency in order to achieve the goal of opening another 5,000 robotic restaurants in the world in addition to the 360 “classic” Haidilao restaurants.

However, not even journalism has been spared from the advent of robots. A few days ago, the Chinese news agency Xinhua launched the first AI anchorman in its own newscast.

 

I, robot - robots - Xinhua news agency introduced the first robot anchorman - cifnews

©Xinhua News. Xinhua’s first English AI anchorman made debut at the World Internet Conference in Wuzhen, China.

 

The first robotic TV host was “hired” by the Xinhua agency and the Sogou search engine in two versions that “clone” the journalists Qiu Hao for the news in Chinese and Zhang Zhao for the English ones.

In early November, the robotic anchorman introduced himself to the world in a tailored suit while facial expressions gave him a human touch. Moreover, thanks to the deep learning algorithms, he will be able to improve over time and he will reduce staff costs by always being ready to air 24/7.

 

“I will work tirelessly to keep you informed as texts will be typed into my system uninterrupted,” said the Xinhua robot anchorman in an introductory video.

 

Artificial intelligence at the service of consumers is the technological innovation on which China is investing to achieve its hi-tech goals. According to the International Federation of Robotics, the global market for service robots is growing with a sales forecast that will reach a cumulative volume of $ 27 billion between 2018 and 2020 just in the professional service sector.

Although robots have already been widely used in Asia in many areas, Chinese models present unique levels of realism and efficiency. It is not just a matter of a lower labor or personnel cost, the level reached by China in artificial intelligence marvels the whole world.

While someone is frightened to see robots replacing those professional figures first related to human experience, a good part of people is fascinated by the endless possibilities that this may bring in our daily lives.

At the moment, Chinese robots only respond to human commands, be they gestures, voice commands or typed ones. But how far can their machine learning go? At what point will we be in 2030 when the Dragon will become the AI superpower?

From what we saw, it is not difficult to think that the world China is building is already far from what we are able to imagine.

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