Their company, located in a city near their parents' village in Henan province, provides an essential early service in the AI process, labeling images and videos to help make computers smarter. Before a self-driving car can learn to avoid hitting people or trees, it must learn what people and trees look like -- by digesting thousands of images labeled by thousands of humans. Demand for labeling is exploding in China as large tech companies, banks and others attempt to use AI to improve their products and services. Many of these companies are clustered in big cities like Beijing and Shanghai, but the lower-tech labeling business is spreading some of the new-tech money out to smaller towns, providing jobs beyond agriculture and manufacturing. The science is mired in controversy in China, where the ruling Communist Party is using AI to help it identify and track people in mass-surveillance programs, most prominently in the largely Muslim province of Xinjiang, according to Human Rights Watch.
A staff member displays a DJI Phantom 3 4K drone during CES (Consumer Electronics Show) in Las Vegas, Nevada. It may come as a surprising fact that there are now 14 Chinese AI companies valued at $1 billion or more. These unicorns are worth a combined $40.5 billion, according to a report China Money Network recently released during the World Economic Forum's Summer Davos gathering in Beijing. Just to put these numbers in perspective. Google bought DeepMind for over $500 million in 2014. Chinese voice recognition giant iFlytek Co. has a market capitalization of 63 billion yuan ($9.2 billion). Chinese AI startups raised $27.7 billion via 369 VC deals in 2017, according to a recent report from Tsinghua University. So naturally, it raises questions on if there is a bubble waiting to pop in the Chinese AI space. How could these companies, with an average age of less than five years, be worth so much money?
Baidu has started mass-producing its Level 4 autonomous mini-buses with the intention of deploying them not just in China, but also in other countries. The Chinese tech giant has teamed up with Softbank subsidiary SB Drive to launch a self-driving mini-bus service in Japan next year. They're bringing 10 "Apolong" buses to Tokyo and other Japanese cities in early 2019 after the vehicles make their debut in select Chinese cities, including Beijing, Shenzhen, Pingtan and Wuhan. The 14-seater buses will initially pick up passengers in tourist areas, parks, industrial campuses, airports and other geo-fenced locations. Baidu has also announced during its annual AI developer conference that it has already manufactured 100 Apolong vehicles with help from Chinese bus manufacturer King Long.
BEIJING – China on Thursday launched its first unmanned cargo spacecraft on a mission to dock with the country's space station, marking further progress in the ambitious Chinese space program. The Tianzhou 1 blasted off at 7:41 p.m. atop a latest-generation Long March 7 rocket from China's newest spacecraft launch site, Wenchang, in the southern island province of Hainan. Minutes later, as the spacecraft cleared the atmosphere, the mission was declared a success by administrators at ground control on the outskirts of Beijing. It is programmed to conduct scientific experiments after reaching the now-crewless Tiangong 2, China's second space station. A pair of Chinese astronauts spent 30 days on board the station last year.
Google's parent company Alphabet is continuing its push for a presence in China with a new Waymo subsidiary, based in Shanghai. Waymo – one of the world's leading autonomous car designers -- has confirmed it has set up a legal entity in the country and has people working there, but hasn't commented on its future plans. The move marks the latest attempt by Alphabet to move into China, where many of its Google services are blocked. But the autonomous vehicle industry is rapidly developing in the country, so it makes sense for Alphabet to get in as early as it can. The cities of Beijing and Guangzhou have recently started approving companies for autonomous vehicle testing on public roads, for example.