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How Baidu will win China’s AI race—and, maybe, the world’s • WIRED
In August, Jessi Hempel interviewed Qi Lu, who left Microsoft to become chief operating officer at Baidu, having seen Microsoft's Cortana effort fall behind Amazon's (to the surprise of many at Microsoft, and Google):
<p><strong>Hempel: don’t you think that Amazon’s handicap is on its back end, in that it can’t keep up on the technology side with Google and Microsoft?</strong>

Qi Lu: I worked on Cortana four and a half years ago. At the time we all were like, “Amazon, yeah, that technology is so far behind.” But one thing I learned is that in this race to AI, it’s actually more about having the right application scenarios and the right ecosystems. Google and Microsoft, technologically, were ahead of Amazon by a wide margin. But look at the AI race today. The Amazon Alexa ecosystem is far ahead of anybody else in the United States. It’s because they got the scenario right. They got the device right. Essentially, Alexa is an AI-first device.

Microsoft and Google made the same mistake. We focused on Cortana on the phone and PC, particularly the phone. The phone, in my view, is going to be, for the foreseeable future, a finger-first, mobile-first device. You need an AI-first device to solidify an emerging base of ecosystems.

It’s become so much clearer, living in China, what AI-first really means. It means you interact with the technology differently from the start. It has to be voice or image recognition, facial recognition, in the first interactions. You can use a screen or touch, but that’s secondary.

At Baidu [headquarters], it’s all face recognition-based. At the vending machine at Baidu, you can buy stuff with voice and a face. And we’re also working on a cafeteria project. Our goal is, when you go to a cafeteria, you walk away with food…

<strong>…JH: How does the US market for voice technology compare to the Chinese market?</strong>

QL: The home environment is very different. Because we’re talking about voice interactions. The acoustic environment, the pattern of noises, will be very different. Alexa, Echo, and Cortana are optimized for American homes. In my view, this only works in North America and maybe a portion of Europe. Essentially, the assumption is that you have spacious homes; you have several rooms. In China, that’s not the case at all. For our target, even for the young generation with high incomes, typically they have 60 square meters [645 square feet], sometimes 90 square meters [970 square feet].

We have better opportunities to globalize DuerOS, because guess what? A home in Japan, a home in India, or a home in Brazil, is a lot closer to a home in China than a home in North America.</p>
baidu  ai  cortana  voice  amazon  home 
yesterday by charlesarthur
Why 500 Million People in China Are Talking to This AI - MIT Technology Review
When Gang Xu, a 46-year-old Beijing resident, needs to communicate with his Canadian tenant about rent payments or electricity bills, he opens an app called iFlytek Input in his smartphone and taps an icon that looks like a microphone, and then begins talking. The software turns his Chinese verbal messages into English text messages, and sends them to the Canadian tenant. It also translates the tenant’s English text messages into Chinese ones, creating a seamless cycle of bilingual conversation.

In China, over 500 million people use iFlytek Input to overcome obstacles in communication such as the one Xu faces. Some also use it to send text messages through voice commands while driving, or to communicate with a speaker of another Chinese dialect. The app was developed by iFlytek, a Chinese AI company that applies deep learning in a range of fields such as speech recognition, natural-language processing, machine translation, and data mining (see “50 Smartest Companies 2017”).
voice  apac  new-companies  ai 
4 days ago by dancall
There is now an Alexa skill for Ocado so you can do your grocery shop by voice | TechRadar
Online supermarket Ocado just took a leap into the voice assistant market, by becoming the first UK supermarket to release an Alexa skill. 
Skills are the name for apps on the Amazon Alexa enabled speakers, including Amazon’s own Echo, Echo Dot, Echo Show, and the numerous third-party speakers that are powered by the smart assistant.
Using the new skill, you will be able to add items to a currently existing basket, find out which products are in season and get inspiration for how to best use them in recipes, check if a product is already in your basket, and track an order.
retail  ecommerce  echo  widgets  voice 
4 days ago by dancall
Ex-Googlers launch Bellgram, an AI-driven virtual assistant for the enterprise | TechCrunch
Three ex-Google engineers have banded together to launch what can only be described as a sort of replacement for a human PA, but one which can be used by a whole company to improve communications across the board.

Bellgram literally tracks conversational data and applies AI to it to enhance how the business operates. The startup has already won Lyft, Woopra, OnFleet and other companies as customers and raised $800K from seed and angel investors including Arzan Venture Capital, 500 Startups and SGH Capital.
b2b  ai  voice  im 
4 days ago by dancall
Ask a real musician: 5 classic male metal singers
I wondered what she would think of some of metal’s most classic male singers – the foundation of the artform. It’s rare to find someone who isn’t familiar with any of these singers. Her perspective would be a fresh one, free of cultural baggage. I sent her five completely unidentified songs. Her comments are below.
metal  music  voice 
5 days ago by grahammitchell

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