COLDSKY.CN – The WeChat public account QbitAI dedicated to AI products and technology development has made a concise illustration of how and what Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent (BAT) are doing in artificial intelligence from the perspectives of team building, research and their ecological systems.
Baidu first showed its AI ambitions with the founding of the IDL (Institute of Deep Learning) in 2013, followed by launch of four more labs – the Silicon Valley AI Lab (SVAIL), Big Data Lab (BDL), AR Lab and the National Engineering Laboratory for Deep Learning Technology and Applications. The efforts lead to the Baidu Brain, the company’s AI-based artificial neural network, and Baidu Cloud, the company’s cloud service. Baidu has employed its AI advances in both its own business units and open platforms – the AI operating system DuerOS and autonomous driving program Apollo.
Lu Qi, the chief operating officer at Baidu, emphasized that the tech giant looks at nothing but the commercialization of AI technology.
Jack Ma of Alibaba is not a big fan of the term AI, instead he prefers “machine intelligence”. But Alibaba is certainly investing heavily in areas such as quantum computing, machine learning, basic algorithms and network security by setting up The Academy for Discovery, Adventure, Momentum and Outlook (Alibaba DAMO Academy). Alibaba’s Institute of Data Science and Technologies (iDST) has developed a deep-learning model that scored higher than a human being, the first time that machine outperformed humans in a reading test globally.
It’s natural for Alibaba to put AI technologies to extensive use in the 11.11 Shopping spree, product recommendations, customer service and publicity. Alibaba A.I. Labs focuses on the development of innovative AI applications across Alibaba’s commerce ecosystem and provides AI solutions to clients and partners while conducting research into speech recognition, natural language processing, voice print identification, deep learning and computer vision. The Labs also focus on developing AI products for consumers including Tmall Genie, the first voice-controlled smart home assistant developed by the Labs.
The cloud computing subsidiary of Alibaba Group has upgraded ET to ET Brain to pack multiple intelligent capabilities and AI solutions to serve multi-industry applications. It has launched ET City Brain, first piloted in Hangzhou to address urban living challenges, ET Medical Brain, Environment Brain and Industrial Brain.
Pony Ma’s Tencent builds its AI strategy on three labs – AI Lab, image technology team Youtu Lab and WeChat AI Lab, with each focusing on different areas but also overlapping. Research outcomes have been applied in Tencent’s wide products lines, notably in the AI-assisted medical imaging application Tencent Miying. Tencent’s AI open platform mainly serves itself in comparison with Baidu.
The main battlefields among BAT:
- Conversational AI – Baidu DuerOS, Alibaba AliGenie and Tecent’s dual arms Xiaowei (an intelligent cloud backend to perform AI-based speech and image recognition) and Tencent MIG (Mobile Internet Group)-developed Dingdang, the AI assistant to take on Siri and Alexa.
- Self-driving cars – Baidu is certainly the front-runner but all three companies are in the race to build autonomous cars. Alibaba and SAIC, one of China’s biggest car manufacturers, launched the first smart car RX5, and it also financed XPeng Motors. Tencent injected investmen in Chinese electric vehicle startups Nio and WM Motor, while also buying a 5 percent share in Tesla.
- Finance – Alibaba’s finance arm Ant Financial and the ET Finance Brian of Alibaba Cloud are both racing to empower financial institutes, offering services in risk control. Tencent now focuses on ID verification and customer services. Baidu’s Financial Services Group has made the most aggressive efforts in using AI to offer comprehensive solutions – safety, customers acquisition and big data risk control. Here’s a closer look at Baidu’s Fintech initiatives by Forbes in July (https://www.forbes.com/sites/greatspeculations/2017/06/28/a-closer-look-at-baidus-fintech-initiatives/#75f423e63af5)
- Medical – Baidu’s medical unit seemed vanish after becoming a part of the AI team, leaving Tencent and Alibaba to compete in the market. Alibaba’s ET Medical Brain has teamed with other companies, including those in medical record analysis, to explore the market, and Alibaba also made investment in medical startups.
- Retail – Alibaba’s Ali Xiaomi, which handles both spoken and written queries, focuses on e-commerce services, acting as a customer service rep and personal shopping assistant. Tencent’s strengths don’t include retail but it also vows to offer offline and online support to create smart retailing. In some chain clothing stores, Tencent’s AI technology helps in facial recognition, customer profiling and targeted marketing.
The WeChat public account QbitAI, the original author of the roundup about BAT’s AI races in Chinese, has authorized COLDSKY.CN to rewrite and translate the story. Contact the COLDSKY.CN author firstname.lastname@example.org or search ukingsun on WeChat.
BATandAI (A map shows how are Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent embracing AI, in Chinese, 5.7m. Made by QbitAI)