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AI to boost industrial upgrading

By Ma Si in Guangzhou | China Daily | Updated: 2017-12-08 08:16
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Electric car startup NIO to unveil first mass-production vehicle next week

Artificial intelligence will inject new impetus to traditional sectors such as automobile and healthcare, as the cutting-edge technology is ready to revolutionize the way people communicate with machines, company executives said on Thursday.

Qin Lihong, president and co-founder of NIO, a Chinese electric car startup backed by investors such as Tencent Holdings Ltd, said AI will play an important part in enabling autonomous vehicles, because it can empower cars to better cope with complicated transportation environments.

"Pure human power cannot do that, because the autonomous driving environment will be so complicated and we need to rely on an AI system which can learn by itself," Qin said at the Fortune Global Forum in Guangzhou, Guangdong province.

The three-year-old company is scheduled to unveil its first mass-production electric vehicle model next Saturday. The car will be equipped with voice recognition technology, which allows drivers to control things such as in-car temperature just by talking to the system.

"We used to communicate with our cars by pushing different buttons or the touch screen. But AI offers a new means of human-machine interaction. Some people are thinking about eyeball contact and gesture control. But we think voice control is the most reliable and convenient way in the foreseeable future," Qin said.

Formerly known as NextEv, NIO has nearly 1,000 employees which are developing software and operating systems to make automobiles more intelligent.

Qin's comments came as China steps up its push to accelerate the application of AI in manufacturing, healthcare, automobile, consumer electronics, and other sectors.

Liu Qingfeng, chairman of iFlytek Co Ltd, one of the leading AI companies in China, said the state-of-the-art technology will also reshape the medical sector by enabling more people to access quality healthcare resources.

In November, the company's AI-enabled medical robot passed the written test of China's national medical licensing examination, making it the first robot in the world to pass such an exam.

According to him, the robot can automatically capture and analyze patient information and make an initial diagnosis. It will be used to assist doctors to improve efficiency in future treatments.

"We will officially launch the robot in March 2018. It is not meant to replace doctors. Instead, it is to promote better human-machine cooperation." Liu added.

iFlytek is conducting a pilot project with Anhui Provincial Hospital to see how the AI robot can assist doctors in real medical cases.

The Hefei, Anhui province-based company is a leading player in China's AI industry. Its AI-enabled user interface platform has accumulated 480,000 third-party developer teams in the past seven years.

Ouyang Shijia contributed to this story.

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