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Baidu unveils chip to boost AI use in industrial applications

By Fan Feifei | China Daily | Updated: 2019-07-04 07:41
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Robin Li, Baidu's chairman and chief executive officer, speaks at the Baidu AI developers conference on Wednesday in Beijing. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Internet search giant Baidu Inc launched an artificial intelligence chip named Honghu on Wednesday, which could be configured to accommodate vehicle-mounted voice control systems and intelligent home scenarios, as part of its broader push to speed up industrial application of AI technologies.

Baidu's open source deep learning platform, PaddlePaddle, will conduct in-depth cooperation with Huawei Technologies Co Ltd's Kirin chipsets, said Wang Haifeng, chief technology officer of Baidu at Baidu Create 2019, the company's annual developers' conference in Beijing.

"The two tech companies could exert their advantages in software and hardware sector," said Wang, describing Baidu's self-developed deep learning platform as the homegrown "AI operating system." He emphasized that the collaboration with Huawei will provide strong computing power and accelerate the commercial application of AI.

Last year, the Beijing-based tech behemoth launched its chip Kunlun, to accommodate the high performance requirements of a wide variety of AI scenarios, such as data centers, public cloud and autonomous vehicles.

"Baidu could make full use of the technological advantages it has accumulated in AI sector, and the semiconductors they make can be used on its own AI platform and applications, which will boost the development of the chip industry," said Ni Guangnan, an academician at the Chinese Academy of Engineering.

James Yan, research director at Counterpoint Technology Market Research, said Baidu hopes to provide comprehensive vehicle-mounted solutions and expand AI application scenarios for carmakers.

Chinese technology companies are intensifying efforts to develop their own AI chips, as the country aims to become self-reliant in key technologies and lessen its dependence on foreign microprocessors.

Alibaba Group Holding Ltd has announced the establishment of a dedicated chip subsidiary aimed at creating customized AI chips and embedded processors to further support the tech giant's cloud and internet of things businesses, as well as drive the development of industry-specific applications.

In addition, Baidu announced a strategic partnership with Chinese carmaker Geely on smart connectivity, intelligent driving, smart home and e-commerce, in a bid to accelerate the popularization of intelligent vehicles in China.

"The strategic partnership will empower AI to create more spontaneous and convenient interactions between humans and vehicles," said Robin Li, Baidu's chairman and chief executive officer.

Li added the move will also accelerate the intelligent transformation of the mobility industry, supporting China in its transformation to become a leader in the age of smart mobility.

Under the new partnership, Geely cars, beginning with the Geely Boyue Pro, will be equipped with the connected vehicle solution powered by Baidu's conversation-based AI system DuerOS for autonomous driving platform Apollo.

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