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Tencent Takes Stake In Snapchat Company

November 10, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

Snapchat got a vote of confidence from a new investor.

Chinese tech behemoth, Tencent, has taken a 12 percent stake in Snap, the company that gave us disappearing messages first, reported the Financial Times. Tencent sits among China’s three biggest tech companies along with Baidu and Alibaba, collectively known as BAT.

The news, revealed in Snap’s quarterly filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission on Wednesday, comes after the company posted disappointing results of its growth this quarter.

It’s not Tencent’s first investment in a US company, having bought a five percent stake in Tesla in March. Tencent, the creator of popular Chinese mobile game, Honour of Kings, also owns Riot Games, the makers of League of Legends.

It’s no secret that Tencent has been making efforts to expand to the US. Also the owner of Chinese messaging platform, WeChat, Tencent brought its digital payment service, WeChat Pay, to the country earlier this year.

In the filing, Snap said it has “long been inspired by the creativity and entrepreneurial spirit of Tencent.”

Tencent president Martin Lau said the company “looks forward to sharing ideas and experiences.” This could come in the form of a collaboration between both companies on mobile games and news feed, according to a statement obtained by Reuters.

Google AI Scores Grade School Level Intelligence Rating

October 4, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Google’s AlphaGo may have defeated Ke Jie to become the Go world champion but it’s no smarter than a kindergartner.

A recently published study showed Google’s artificial intelligence technology scored best out of 50 systems that Chinese researchers tested against an AI scale they created, although it’s still no smarter than a six-year-old, CNBC reportedMonday. At 47.28, it’s almost twice as smart as Apple’s virtual assistant, Siri.

AI systems have developed so quickly that it’s been able to act as an assistant, take an exam and even outperform us at strategy games. But the results downplay the concerns of “AI worriers” who have been uneasy about how fast it’s progressing.

To evaluate how smart an intelligent system is (or has become), its ability to “acquire, master, create and feedback knowledge” has to be tested, wrote the researchers. The IQ of 50 AI systems including Google’s AI, Siri, and Chinese search engine, Baidu, as well as three humans aged 18, 12 and six, were rated in 2014. When the authors took the scores of the AI systems again in 2016, they found that Google was the smartest in years and had improved the fastest (from 26.5 to 47.28), but it wasn’t enough to beat even a six year-old who came in with a score of 55.5.

The test also rated Google’s AlphaGo, the search giant’s AI system developed to play Go, against the authors’ intelligence grade model. AlphaGo was found to be in the third grade, which the authors say is two grades lower than that of humans.

Notable “AI worriers” include physicist Stephen Hawking and Tesla Motors and SpaceX CEO, Elon Musk, who both won the 2015 Luddite Award and were branded AI “alarmists.” Hawking is a firm believer that AI could pose a real danger depending on who controls it, and argues that it could outsmart us and end humanity. Musk agrees there’s significant risk and asked for regulation in July, going as far as to suggest AI could start World War III. Alibaba founder and executive chairman, Jack Ma, thought companies could be helmed by AI systems in the next three decades.

PayPal Teams With Baidu On Mobile Wallet Payments Service

July 28, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

There are over 1.3 billion potental new customers in China, and PayPal wants a piece of the market.

The king of digital payments has teamed up with Chinese search giant Baidu to bring Chinese online shoppers to PayPal’s 17 million international e-commerce sites. They’ll be able to pay with local mobile payment service Baidu Wallet, the companies said in a statement today.

The payoff is big for PayPal’s global merchants, who will tap the lucrative Chinese market and the 100 million users registered on Baidu Wallet. That’s already half the number of PayPal’s current 200 million active accounts.

PayPal isn’t the first foreign entity cashing in on China’s hugely lucrative market. US startup Stripe announced its collaboration with Chinese digital payment services Alipay and WeChat Pay earlier this month to enable the same service.

Though there are upwards of 100 million users registered on Baidu Wallet, according to Baidu, the digital payment market is dominated by Alipay and WeChat Pay, which have a combined share of 92 percent.

China’s Tencent To Open Artificial Intelligence Lab In Seattle

May 3, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Chinese social media and gaming giant Tencent Holdings announced that it will open an artificial intelligence (AI) research facility in Seattle in the United States, to be headed up by former Microsoft scientist Yu Dong.

Yu, who has been appointed as deputy head of Tencent’s AI Lab division, will run the new lab as well as spearhead research in speech recognition and natural language understanding, the company said.

Tencent, which owns the popular WeChat messaging app, is Asia’s most valuable company with a market capitalization of nearly $300 billion.

Shenzhen-headquartered Tencent is one of a number of Chinese technology juggernauts that are stepping up efforts in AI research. Tencent’s WeChat has more than 889 million monthly active users.

Tencent has more than 50 researchers and more than 200 engineers at its AI Lab in Shenzhen, which was established in April 2016, according to the company.

China’s “Big Three” tech firms – Tencent, Baidu Inc and Alibaba – have been competing to attract top-notch talent.

Yu, a speech recognition and deep learning expert, was the principal researcher at Microsoft Research Institute’s Speech and Dialog Group before joining Tencent.

Baidu suffered a setback to its AI ambitions after its chief scientist Andrew Ng resigned in March, shortly before Tencent announced it has poached Baidu’s former big data director Zhang Tong to head up its AI Lab.

Yu is looking to build a team of around 20 for the Seattle lab, according to Tencent.

Netflix Gains Entry Into China With iQiyi.com Deal

April 26, 2017 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Netflix will finally be able to introduce original content in China in a licensing deal with local video streaming service iQiyi.com, the U.S. company said on Tuesday.

Netflix has struggled to break into the Chinese market, where streaming services are subject to strict data storage regulations and foreign films and television are routinely censored.

Content air times will parallel other regions, a spokeswoman said, who declined to say comment further on the tie-up.

Netflix has played down the possibility of its entry into China in the past year despite its otherwise rapid global expansion.

In October co-founder and Chief Executive Reed Hastings said that prospects for a direct streaming service in the country were slim, and the firm had made no progress in obtaining government approvals.

iQiyi.com is one of China’s largest streaming services and is backed by search giant Baidu Inc. In February it raised 1.53 billion to take on local rivals in a hotly contested market.

This month Netflix forecast a global increase of 3.2 million subscribers in the second quarter, far outpacing analysts’ estimates of nearly 2.4 million.

Baidu Wants In On Automonous Vehicles, Plans Launch In July

April 20, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Baidu Inc has announced plans to launch its self-driving car technology for restricted environment in July before gradually introducing fully autonomous driving capabilities on highways and open city roads by 2020.

The project is named Apollo after the lunar landing program, the Chinese search giant said, adding it would work with partners who provide vehicles, sensors and other components for the new technology.

As part of its push into artificial intelligence (AI), the company in January named former Microsoft Corp executive Qi Lu as chief operating officer.

Two months after the appointment, Baidu’s chief scientist Andrew Ng, who led AI and augmented reality (AR) projects, said he would step down.

The company also launched a $200 million fund in October to focus on AI, AR and deep learning, followed by a $3 billion fund announced in September to target mid- and late- stage start-ups.

“AI has great potential to drive social development, and one of AI’s biggest opportunities is intelligent vehicles,” Qi said in a statement.

In November, Baidu and German automaker BMW AG  said they would end their joint research on self-driving cars due to differences in opinion on how to proceed.

Technology and automotive leaders contend that cars of the future will be capable of completely driving themselves, revolutionizing the transportation industry, with virtually all carmakers as well as companies such as Alphabet’s Google and parts supplier Delphi investing heavily in developing the technology.

Uber’s Self-driving Cars To Return To California Roads

March 10, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Uber Technologies’ autonomous cars most likely will be returning to California soon after state authorities permitted the company to test the vehicles.

The ride-hailing company is now listed by the California Department of Motor Vehicles as one of more than 20 companies, including Waymo, Tesla and Baidu,  that have been issued autonomous vehicle testing permits as of Wednesday.

The resumption of the tests that were stopped abruptly in December over Uber’s refusal to take a permit from the DMV reflects a significant change by the company, which had argued that its vehicles did not need the permit as the rules apply to cars that can drive without someone controlling or monitoring them.

“For us, it’s still early days and our cars are not yet ready to drive without a person monitoring them,” Uber said in a post at the time.

Having started testing its self-driving cars with ride-hailing customers in Pittsburgh in September, Uber decided by December to test the vehicles in San Francisco. But the DMV demanded that the company take the Volvo XC90s vehicles off the roads, threatening legal action over Uber’s refusal to seek the $150 permit.

Uber later struck a conciliatory note, stating that it would halt its self-driving car trials in the city and would work with state regulators on obtaining proper permits for its test cars.

Participating in the state’s permit program comes with the provision that all accidents involving the cars have to be reported to authorities within 10 business days of the incident, and the data is published online, which Uber was probably not keen on sharing in a competitive market. Testers are also required to submit annual reports of disengagements of the autonomous mode when there there is a failure of the technology or when immediate manual control is required for safety reasons.

In the new tests, the Uber cars will not be carrying passengers during the pilot, a company spokeswoman said. In December, the company had offered to match riders who request an uberX in San Francisco with a “Self-Driving Uber” if one was available. The spokeswoman did not provide a date as to when the tests would begin.

Uber made on Wednesday yet another overture to regulators. It said it would prohibit the use of its “greyballing” technology to target action by local regulators. The Greyball tool, which provided a doctored view of the app to certain riders in many countries,  helped Uber avoid officials seeking rides to investigate the ride-hailing service, the New York Times reported earlier this month.

Uber’s Chief Security Officer Joe Sullivan wrote in a blog post Wednesday that Greyball has been used for many purposes, including the testing of new features by employees, marketing promotions, fraud prevention, protecting its partners from physical harm, and deterring  riders using the app in violation of the company’s terms of service. It will take some time to enforce the prohibition on targeting of officials, because of the way the company’s systems are configured, Sullivan wrote.

China’s Baidu Jumps On Augmented Reality Bandwagon

January 18, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Chinese search engine Baidu Inc announced that it has launched an augmented reality (AR) lab in Beijing as part of a $200 million effort to revitalize the company’s shrinking profits with cutting edge technology.

The lab, which currently employs 55 people, will initially aim to drive revenue through AR marketing, though will later explore healthcare and education.

“AR marketing is taking off,” Andrew Ng, the chief scientist overseeing Baidu’s artificial intelligence (AI), augmented reality and deep learning projects, told Reuters.

 “There are few content formats where the content is evergreen – AR will be like that,” he said.

Popularised in 2016 by Nintendo Co Ltd’s Pokemon Go game, augmented reality involves rendering virtual images over real life settings viewed on a smartphone, headset or other device. In marketing, the software can be used to animate a product or a branded space.

Baidu’s AR launch comes as the company gears up to report full-year earnings next month. It has forecast a revenue drop of around 4.6 percent as it grapples with the aftermath of new government curbs on medical advertising. Those curbs have slashed into the profits of its core search business and saw ad customers drop 16 percent in the quarter ended in September.

The company injected $200 million into its AI and AR unit in September in an effort to kick start new growth, followed by the announcement of a $3 billion investment fund announced in October focusing on mid-to-late stage startups.

The company in a statement said it is currently working with AR in China with Yum! Brands Inc’s KFC, BMW and L’Oreal SA’s Lancome among other brands, and has demonstrated a small range of high-end applications.

Baidu began working on the technology two years ago, and is working on integrating it with AI to produce visuals capable of interacting with real-time surroundings, unlike current popular AR games.

“It’s working quite well now, but it’s clear that it could be better,” said Ng. “I’m quite optimistic.”

AR technology is still going through a regulatory teething phase in China. While Pokemon Go is yet to launch there, location-based AR concepts have sprung up, drawing the ire of regulators who have refused to license some services over security concerns.

According to Ng, Baidu is yet to run into the same issues.

“I feel like the abilities for AR have risen up in China faster than the Western world may be aware,” said Ng.

China Introduces New Rules For Mobile App Stores

January 18, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

China had mandated that all app stores operating in the country register with its Cyberspace Administration in an effort to combat malware but also to tighten control over uncensored content.

The rules took effect Monday, in a country where domestic third-party app stores — not from Apple or Google — are serving billions of downloads to Android smartphones. Chinese internet companies such as Baidu, Tencent and a host of smaller, shadier local app stores have been feeding the demand, at a time when Google has largely pulled out of the market.

The government, however, has problems with the proliferation of app stores and the lack of industry oversight, the Cyberspace Administration of China said in a statement on Friday. Some app stores have been offering products that violate users’ rights, contain security vulnerabilities or spread “illegal information,” it said.

The new rules intend to force the stores to better audit their products. Cyberspace Administration officials will keep records on the app stores and investigate those that fail to register or which are found falsifying information.

 The new rules are hardly a surprise. China has been heavily censoring the internet for years. Foreign websites such as Facebook and Twitter have been blocked from the country, and local internet services are often required to delete comments or shut down user accounts found posting antigovernment content.

However, in some cases, apps have provided one way for users to circumvent the strict controls. That happened with The New York Times, whose main website was blocked in the country in 2012.

Despite the censorship, the company’s news app was offered on Apple’s app store until China ordered its takedown earlier this month.

Third-party app stores in China have also been known to spread malware. Last year, a mobile Trojan likely sourced from the country managed to infect millions of devices across China, India and Indonesia by imitating Android apps.

The country has over 650 million mobile internet users, according to the China Internet Network Information Center. The huge user base has made its app stores some of the biggest in the world.

Nvidia Unveils AI Computer System For Self-driving Cars

September 14, 2016 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

nvidia-150x150U.S. chipmaker Nvidia Corp has unveiled a smaller and more efficient artificial intelligence computer for self-driving cars, saying it would power Baidu’s mapping and autonomous vehicle technology.

Chinese web services company Baidu will deploy Nvidia’s new Drive PX 2 as its in-vehicle car computer for its self-driving system, Nvidia said in a press release as‮ ‬it‮ ‬unveiled the computer at the GPU Technology Conference in Beijing.

As more carmakers develop plans for self-driving technology to roll out in their vehicles in the next decade or less, Nvidia is trying to lower the barriers to entry, providing powerful computers to help automakers enter the market.

Earlier this month, Nvidia and Baidu announced a partnership to develop a full self-driving car architecture from the cloud to the vehicle using both companies’ expertise in artificial intelligence (AI).

Nvidia said its new Drive PX 2 computer uses 10 watts of power and is half the size of the original version, launched in January. That solves a problem faced by carmakers incorporating self-driving technology – how to pack the punch of AI, which helps cars make decisions, into a compact computer suitable for production-ready vehicles.

Configured with a single processor, the Drive PX 2 fuses incoming data from sensors and uses deep neural networks to produce a complex picture of objects around a vehicle.

Astin Martin To Enter Electric Car Market

February 18, 2016 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Aston Martin has entered into a joint venture with Chinese technology group LeEco to develop the British luxury car brand’s first electric vehicle, which could come to market in 2018, the companies said on Wednesday.

“It brings Aston Martin’s electric car project forward,” Aston Martin Chief Executive Andy Palmer said at a news conference in Frankfurt.

The partners plan to develop an electric car based on Aston Martin’s Rapide S model. Financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

Lei Ding, co-founder of LeEco’s auto division, who previously held senior positions at joint ventures of Volkswagen and General Motors in China, said: “The joint venture is a partnership platform. We can develop future electric vehicles for both parties.”

Separately, the new joint venture plans to collaborate with Faraday Future, the start-up electric car firm backed by Chinese billionaire Jia Yueting, the companies said.

China’s government is promoting electric vehicles to cut the smog that frequently envelops cities, which officials say has helped sales quadruple last year and has turned it into the world’s biggest market.

An electric car joint venture of Taiwan’s Hon Hai, China’s Tencent and China Harmony Auto Holding said this month it was hiring former BMW executive Carsten Breitfeld to lead it.

Harmony Futeng, launched last March, is one of several Chinese tech companies trying to develop “smart” and electric vehicles. These include Alibaba, Baidu  and Leshi Internet Information and Technology Corp Beijing, recently rebranded as LeEco.

 

Baidu Aims For Self-driving Buses In 3 Years

December 15, 2015 by  
Filed under Around The Net

China’s top online search firm Baidu Inc said it has a goal to put self-driving buses on the road in three years and mass produce them within five years, after it created a business unit to oversee all its efforts related to automobiles.

The unit will also include its initiative in partnership with BMW AG to develop an autonomous passenger vehicle, which may also be put into mass production within five years, a spokesman told Reuters on Monday.

Self-driving cars have emerged as a new battlefront for tech majors globally. Alibaba Group Holding says it will launch its first car in a partnership with China’s SAIC Motor Corp, while U.S. tech heavyweights Google and Apple are also developing autonomous cars.

The Baidu spokesman declined to give details on potential auto manufacturer partners for the bus project or investment amounts for the unit.

Baidu Senior Vice President Wang Jing will lead the new unit as general manager.

 

 

Baidu Takes Leap Into Autonomous Cars

December 11, 2015 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Baidu is showing signs that it could be a serious competitor in the market for self-driving cars by testing a fully autonomous car on a route it said had mixed roads under a variety of environmental conditions.

The vehicle, a modified BMW 3 Series,  is said to have made right, left and U-turns, slowing down if it detected vehicles ahead, changed lanes, passed other cars and  merged into traffic on the highway, Baidu said Wednesday.

The car reached a top speed of 100 kilometers per hour (62 miles per hour) during the test runs on a 30-kilometer route, which began and ended at Baidu’s Beijing headquarters near Zhongguancun Science Park in Haidian District.

Baidu, which revealed last year that it was developing a driverless car, tied with BMW to jointly research driverless car technologies. Earlier this year, Wang Jin, a company executive, said at a conference that a self-driving car would be launched in China with BMW by the end of this year.

The autonomous capabilities demonstrated by the Baidu car are also being tested by other companies aiming to offer self-driving cars, including Google. The Chinese player could, however,  be a serious contender in the autonomous car market, particularly because of its strong brand and presence in China.

The self-driving cars are being researched by Baidu’s Institute of Deep Learning since 2013.

The company appears to plan to go beyond cars and also develop self-driving buses built around Baidu AutoBrain technology, which includes highly automated driving (HAD) maps, positioning, detection, and smart decision-making and control.

 

 

 

 

Alibaba Moves Forward With ‘Internet Plus’ Strategy In Latest Deal

August 11, 2015 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Alibaba Group Holding Ltd will invest $4.6 billion in Chinese electronics giant Suning Commerce Group Co Ltd, its biggest step yet towards integrating online and store-based shopping.

Alibaba is paying 28.3 billion yuan ($4.56 billion) for newly issued Suning shares and will ultimately hold a 19.99 percent stake. Suning will in turn invest 14 billion yuan to acquire 1.1 percent of Alibaba through the purchase of new shares, the two said in a joint statement.

The deal comes when Chinese companies, as well as the country’s top policymakers, have espoused combining offline and online sectors as a lucrative new business model.

Baidu Inc, China’s dominant Internet search provider, has said it would invest $3.2 billion over the next three years in such services, while property conglomerate Dalian Wanda Group said last month its entertainment arm would lead a $1 billion investment in a travel website.

Alibaba’s latest alliance would, in practical terms, allow its online customers to go into one of Suning’s 1,600 outlets in China to try out a product before purchasing it on Alibaba’s website using their smartphone.

Suning, which has long boasted a formidable logistics operation, would join forces with Alibaba’s distribution network to deliver goods in as little as two hours, the companies said.

China’s leaders have been fleshing out a broad Internet sector strategy known as “Internet Plus” to combine online and offline industries and encourage more technology-driven, high-value economic output as the world’s second-largest economy wrestles with slowing growth.

Speaking to reporters on Monday, Alibaba Chief Executive Daniel Zhang said he would consider striking more deals with brick-and-mortar stores beyond electronics, as long as those retail chains “can bring us additional customers.”

 

 

China To Place Internet Police At Biggest Online Companies

August 7, 2015 by  
Filed under Around The Net

China’s already tight control over the Internet is set to expand. In an attempt to better police local websites, the country’s security forces are establishing offices at the biggest online companies in the country.

The country’s Ministry of Public Security announced the new measures at a time when authorities have been increasingly concerned about cyberthreats.

Websites based in China already have to abide by strict provisions for online censorship and will often delete any content deemed offensive by government censors.

The ministry’s plan, however, will place China’s security forces at the offices of the country’s major websites, so that they can quickly respond to suspected online crimes, it said in astatement.

“Cyber attacks, the online spread of terrorist information, Internet fraud, and the stealing of personal information,” were among the biggest threats the ministry named. In addition, authorities want to crack down on online rumor mongering, pornography, gambling and drug-related Internet activities.

No specific companies were mentioned, but the country’s biggest Internet firms include Alibaba Group, Baidu and Tencent.

The announcement by the ministry comes at a time when the government is considering a new “Internet security law” that could increase China’s online censorship while addressing China’s online security concerns.

China has made cybersecurity a major focus, following leaks from former U.S. National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden that alleged that the U.S. has been secretly spying on the country. But the New York-based Human Rights Watch is concerned that the security legislation will stifle free speech.

“The law will effectively put China’s Internet companies, and hundreds of millions of Internet users, under greater state control,” the group said in an email.

 

 

 

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