At the beginning of 2017, Chinese tech company Baidu, the largest provider of Chinese language internet search as well as other digital products and services, committed to emerging business sectors such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning. Since China has 731 million internet users, almost twice the U.S. population, Baidu’s data set is capable of fueling AI algorithms to make them even better. With this focus on artificial intelligence, Baidu is exploring some very intriguing applications for artificial intelligence and machine learning including in their offices where facial recognition technology makes standard ID cards unnecessary and allows you to order tea from a vending machine.
They have also recruited top AI talent including one of the world’s most notable AI pioneers Lu Qi, who was previously a Microsoft executive before he became Baidu’s COO in January 2017. Qi will step down in July 2018 for personal reasons. Although he was only at Baidu for a short time, he helped chart a clear strategy for the company’s AI operations that will continue. Here are a few ways Baidu uses artificial intelligence and machine learning.
DuerOS is Baidu’s voice assistant
Since Baidu can leverage its expansive data set, its voice assistant called DuerOS has accumulated more conversation-based skill sets than Alexa, Siri or Cortana. Partnering with other tech companies is one way Baidu hopes to accelerate innovation. They have teamed up with more than 130 DuerOS partners, and the voice assistant is in more than 100 brands of appliances such as refrigerators, TVs, and speakers. Since homes in India, Japan, Europe, and Brazil are more like homes in China, there may be better opportunities for DuerOS to globalize since Alexa, Cortana and Echo are optimized for American households. At CES 2018, Baidu debuted its DuerOS-powered smart screen called Little Fish VS1. This technology can recognize and respond to individual faces.
Mobile partners to accelerate AI-powered devices
Unlike its competitors, Baidu was steadfast in its commitment to desktops and missed the shift to mobile. To survive, Baidu needed a new strategy and artificial intelligence technology provided just the platform to turn the business around. That’s one of the reasons Baidu has committed so aggressively to AI investment. Today, AI products and services are priorities to make them the core of the company’s future. Now, they are partnering with Huawei to develop an open mobile AI platform to support the development of AI-powered smartphones and Qualcomm to optimize its DuerOS for IoT devices and smartphones using Qualcomm’s Snapdragon Mobile Platform.