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High-tech boost for light show

By Xing Yi | China Daily Global | Updated: 2020-01-17 08:19
This year's lantern show at Yu Garden, an annual event at the historical tourist site in downtown Shanghai, features lighting installations using such new technologies as AI and projection-mapping.[Photo by Xing Yi/China Daily]

While the annual lantern show at Yu Garden, a historical tourist site in downtown Shanghai, has been held since 1995 to usher in Spring Festival, this will be the first year that the venue is leveraging artificial intelligence for the event.

Named Tmall Genie and developed by Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, AI at the garden has also made the job of technicians easier.

In the past, technicians had to manually switch on the extensive lighting installations across the garden, but thanks to Tmall Genie, only one person is required to do the job this year.

This person doesn't even need to press a button-he or she can simply utter the command.

With a simple command, a 9-meter-high lantern in the shape of a mouse begins beaming in the central square. Following this, images of lions on the facade of Hefeng Mansion nearby become animated and the neon signs of Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse flicker above the stone alley where crowds wait in a line to buy traditional Shanghai snacks and souvenirs.

"We use a smart speaker to turn on all the light installations. It's like a magic spell. It's one of the new things we've tried this year," says Sun Jingjing, a light show controller who came up with the idea of using AI.

"The idea of controlling the light show with a smart speaker came to me one night when I asked the system to turn off the light (in her home) as it was too cold to get out of bed," she explains.

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