China Expects Greater AI Support

(Xinhua News Agency, March 9, 2016. Complete text:) Beijing - As artificial intelligence (AI) program AlphaGo beat the world human champion of Chinese board game Go for the first time on Wednesday [March 9], deputies in the Great Hall of People in Beijing are discussing how smarter machines can shape the future of China.

Though only in the first of the five-game match, the victory is heartening news for those lobbying for greater government support for AI technology at the "two sessions," China’s most important annual political event.

"Massive application of AI will take place in just three to five years.*** China must seize this time," said Liu Qingfeng, board chairman of tech firm iFLYTEK Co. Ltd., at the session of the National People’s Congress (NPC), to which he is a deputy. Liu had predicted AlphaGo’s triumph days ago to Xinhua, as he praised AI’s calculation prowess. But the technology can do far more than that - it will shape every aspect of China’s future from home appliances to social services to industrial productivity, he said.

Liu’s company, a pioneer in intelligent speech technology, develops voice interface products including one that rivals Apple’s Siri. In his proposal submitted to the session, he advised the country set up national labs and pilot zones on AI to promote such technology.

Self-driving car, another commercially promising branch of AI technology, also drove its way into the proposal by Robin Li, CEO of search engine giant Baidu that has also announced plans to develop autonomous cars.

Using his capacity as a member of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) National Committee, Li proposed making rules and regulations that adapt to the era of driverless cars.

"The government should roll out a top-down development plan and supportive financial policies to encourage Chinese car makers and Internet companies to collaborate," Li said.

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