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Govt Work Report turns ‘artificial intelligence’ into buzzword

Updated: Mar 12,2017 9:16 AM

Premier Li Keqiang praised the artificial intelligence technology which instantaneously translated the Government Work Report just from voice recognition.

The new technology, developed by Anhui-based software enterprise iFlytek, was introduced to Premier Li during his panel discussion with National People’s Congress deputies from Anhui province in Beijing on March 10.

“The term ‘artificial intelligence’ has been for the first time incorporated into the Government Work Report, which has greatly inspired those working in the science and technology field as well as in industrial sectors,” said Liu Qingfeng, an NPC deputy and board chairman of iFlytek.

This step is just as important as the first input of the strategic orientation of internet and “internet Plus” strategy into the Government Work Report six years ago and two years ago, respectively, said Li Yanhong, a CPPCC National Committee member, president and CEO of Baidu, China’s top internet enterprise.

Premier Li has attached great importance to cutting-edge technologies. During the two sessions in 2016, he had mentioned the Go match between Lee Sedol and AlphaGo when he answered a question concerning relations among China, Japan and the Republic of Korea.

At a State Council executive meeting in June 2015, Premier Li listed development of artificial intelligence as one of the major tasks in pushing forward the internet Plus strategy, and rolled out related supporting measures.

At an event for mass entrepreneurship and innovation, he had a chat with a robot named Xiao Du, independently developed by Baidu.

“Why are you called Xiao Du?” the Premier asked.

“Because I’m made by Baidu,” the robot answered.

“How much data do you have?” the Premier Li enquired.

“A huge amount of data,” the robot responded.

The Premier then asked about the day’s PM2.5 reading. While the robot was “thinking”, he added, “Do you know that mass entrepreneurship and innovation can also improve the environment?”

The robot said decisively, “Of course!”

Behind Premier Li’s interacting with artificial intelligence are the current government’s efforts in promoting the strategic industry.

In July 2015, artificial intelligence was included in the State Council’s guideline on promoting internet Plus action; in March 2016, the word “artificial intelligence” was listed into the 13th Five-Year plan; in May 2016, four ministries, including the National Development and Reform Commission, jointly issued a three-year action plan on internet Plus artificial intelligence.

Liu Qingfeng recalled that he, as an entrepreneur representative, attended a symposium hosted by Premier Li two years ago. At the meeting the Premier Li encouraged iFlytek to be the leader in the scientific innovation of artificial intelligence.

On March 10, Liu told Premier Li that iFlytek’s artificial intelligence now can support real-time voice translation in 27 languages and last year the company won several top awards on international language synthesis and voice translation.

At the meeting room, Liu spoke to the translation software in Chinese: “Artificial intelligence changing the world” and “Let the world listen to us”. Then the translated English version was spoken out by the software immediately.

“Oh, it is pure US citizen English pronunciation,” said Premier Li.

China has become a prominent player in the global artificial intelligence competition, said The Atlantic Monthly. Two months ago, the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence changed the time of its annual meeting, one of the world’s most important artificial intelligence meetings, because the time was in conflict with the Chinese Spring Festival and Chinese artificial intelligence learners have become indispensable attendants of this meeting.

Just following the end of China’s Lunar New Year, artificial intelligence entered a crucial stage in the country — it was written into the Government Work Report for the first time. Some said that Premier Li’s reading of these words to the NPC deputies at the Great Hall of the People left a sonorous note in the history of artificial intelligence development.