Say again?

Voice recog­ni­tion firm aims to ac­cel­er­ate the use of its ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence tech­nolo­gies

China Daily (USA) - - FRONT PAGE - By MASI masi@chi­

Voice recog­ni­tion firm iFLYTEK aims to ac­cel­er­ate the use of ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence tech­nolo­gies in cars, e-learn­ing and mo­bile in­ter­net.

Chi­nese voice recog­ni­tion firm iFLYTEK Co Ltd said it will step up over­seas in­vest­ments as the firm aims to ac­cel­er­ate the ap­pli­ca­tion of its ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence tech­nolo­gies in cars, e-learn­ing and mo­bile in­ter­net in­dus­tries.

Liu Qingfeng, chair­man of iFLYTEK, said the com­pany has set up a fund to in­vest into global star­tups and later-stage firms, as ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence, or AI, is widely seen as a core driv­ing force over the next five to 10 years.

“The first-phase of the fund will be 1 bil­lion yuan ($150 mil­lion) and we have al­ready ac­quired a Ja­panese firm which uses dig­i­tal technology to pro­mote English learn­ing,” Liu said in an ex­clu­sive in­ter­view with China Daily on the side­lines of B20 sum­mit which was held in­Hangzhou, cap­i­tal of Zhe­jiang prov­ince, on Satur­day.

Founded in 1999, iFLYTEK is the Chi­nese coun­ter­part of the US firm Nu­ance Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Inc and Siri, the vir­tual voice as­sis­tant de­vel­oped by Ap­ple Inc.

iFLYTEK’s in­vest­ment plan came af­ter AI-pow­ered Al­phaGo de­feated a world cham­pion player of the an­cient strat­egy game Go ear­lier this year. The vic­tory marked a break­through in the in­fant sec­tor, which both Chi­nese and for­eign in­ter­net gi­ants such as Baidu Inc and Google Inc are pour­ing money in for fu­ture growth.

“One of our fo­cuses will be the au­to­mo­tive in­dus­try where hands are bound to steer­ing wheels and voice con­trol is needed the most,” Liu said, adding that the firm’s technology has been ap­plied to more than 30 car mod­els.

In 2016, iFLYTEK pre­vailed in the Wino­grad Schema Chal­lenge, a well­rec­og­nized global com­pe­ti­tion to test ma­chine in­tel­li­gence. Cur­rently, about 160,000 de­vel­op­ers are us­ing the firm’s voice cloud plat­form to work on dif­fer­ent ap­pli­ca­tions, more than dou­bling last year’s fig­ure.

To ex­pand its over­seas pres­ence, the firm, based in He­fei, cap­i­tal of east China’s An­hui prov­ince, is also work­ing on a voice cloud plat­form to achieve au­to­matic trans­la­tion of Chi­nese to English, the Uygur lan­guage and other lan­guages which are widely used in Cen­tral Asia.

Tan Tie­niu, a mem­ber of the Chi­nese Academy of Sciences, said the global AI mar­ket hit $127 bil­lion in 2015 and it is ex­pected to ex­ceed $165 bil­lion this year.

“But it is im­por­tant to re­main calm as in­vest­ments flood to the AI sec­tor and more ef­forts are needed to de­velop core technology,” Tan said.

Zhao Zim­ing, an an­a­lyst at Analysys In­ter­na­tional in Beijing, said: “As we en­ter into the in­ter­net of things era where re­frig­er­a­tors, desks, cur­tains and other things are all con­nected with the in­ter­net, voice-based con­trol will have big po­ten­tial.”


Ji­a­jia (left), a robot de­vel­oped by the Uni­ver­sity of Sci­ence and Technology of China in He­fei, An­hui prov­ince, meets re­porters at the cam­pus of the school.

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