Keeko is just 45 centimeters tall, or one-foot seven inches, and weighs only 45 kilograms, roughly 99 pounds. Gliding across the room to the amazement of starry-eyed five-year-olds, it rolls its head and tells the transfixed children “remember to wash your hands before you eat.”
They all giggle and rush to cuddle the diminutive AI robot with the cutesy, cartoon character voice, and stare with utter bewilderment.
In nursery schools across China, Keeko models are being brought in as teaching aids to engage and stimulate young and impressionable minds. With the assistance of her “little helper,” Yang Huizhen showed her class the importance of recycling.
Before the lesson started, she uploaded information into Keeko’s memory drive about putting waste material into the right containers. “Why are there four different colored garbage bins in our kindergarten?” the tiny robot asked the children. Immediately, hands were raised to answer the question.
“I once thought AI robots would steal the jobs of teachers, but my worry turned out to be unnecessary. They will be good teaching assistants as my class is curious about them,” Yang, who works at the Xingguo Kindergarten in the port city of Xiamen, which is in the Southeast province of Fujian, told the official Chinese media.
Curious is the right word. The brainchild of the Keeko Robot (Xiamen) Technology Company, this Wall-E lookalike from Pixar’s hugely successful 2008 fantasy movie has the IQ of a five-year-old and is programmed to interact with kindergarten kids.
So far, the model has been rolled out at 672 nurseries across the country. “Our engineers are cooperating with kindergarten teachers who know what the children really need,” Guo Changchen, the CEO of Keeko Robot Technology, said. “Teachers can prepare the lessons and upload the content to the robots. As more data is accumulated, the robots will become smarter and more helpful.”
Behind the rapid growth of companies involved in the fledgling humanoid and android sector is the expanding artificial intelligence, or AI, industry.
Significantly, this is at the core of the ambitious “Made in China 2025” policy, which will turn the world’s second-largest economy into an advanced technology superpower. Heavily criticized by US President Donald Trump for excessive state subsidies, the program has been dragged into Washington’s trade war with Beijing.
In response, President Xi Jinping’s government has simply accelerated its plans.
Last month, a study entitled China’s AI Development 2018 was released by the Tsinghua University, a major research institution in Beijing. It showed the country’s AI market was worth 23.7 billion yuan ($3.5 billion) in 2017 and is projected to nearly double this year as funding pours into the industry.
Globally, it will expand to $17.83 billion by 2023 from $5.11 billion in 2018, a report released this week on ResearchAndMarkets.com illustrated.
“From 2013 to the first quarter of 2018, China’s investment and financing in the AI industry accounted for 60% of the world’s total,” China’s AI Development 2018 report stated. “China published the largest number of AI-related research papers, as well as highly cited papers. China was also ranked first in the number of AI-related patents, most of which focus on application.”
Nearly 19,000 scientists and technicians were actively involved in artificial intelligence research last year, and the number will continue to rise, with the State Council, the administration’s de facto cabinet, predicting that the sector will grow into a 1 trillion yuan industry by 2030.
Companies are sprouting up and there are more than 4,000 AI enterprises with half of them startups, the Science and Technology Daily, the official newspaper of the Ministry of Science and Technology, revealed.
Part of a white paper released by the MST concentrated on the highly successful “cluster system” such as the one in Zhongguancun, which is situated in the Haidian district of Beijing and is known as China’s Silicon Valley.
Already there are more than 1,000 companies there with 56% classified as “early” startups. Retail, healthcare, education and service sectors, as well as the auto industry, were areas highlighted for “smart solutions.”
Indeed, Zhongguancun is crucial to Xi’s high-tech program.
“Zhongguancun [is] where many of the most dynamic indigenous companies were born,” Yu Zhou an associate professor of Earth Science and Geography at Vassar College in New York and the author of The Inside Story of China’s High-Tech Industry: Making Silicon Valley in Beijing, wrote in the Asia-Pacific Journal.
“Since the mid-1980s, [Zhongguancun] has transformed from a quiet suburb designated for scientific research and higher education into a bustling hub of high-tech businesses, and research and development labs.”
Entrepreneurs such as Liu Zhiyong, the founder and CEO of Zhen Robotics, which manufactures haulage androids, have been inspired by this state-backed system.
Linked with AI and equipped with GPS, cameras and radar, his yellow and black cube-like creations scuttle around at the sedate pace of three kilometers, or two miles, an hour, delivering groceries and other packages.
Weighing 30 kilograms, which is about 65 pounds, they travel on six wheels and have four cameras and a laser tele-detection system constantly scanning for obstacles.
“At the moment, there are 100 million packages delivered every day in China,” Liu told the media. “It will be one billion in the future. There will not be enough humans to make the deliveries, [so] we need more and more robots to fill this gap in manpower. And to reduce costs.”
Again, AI is, and will continue to be, crucial to this brave new world of robotics and cutting-edge technology.
Online “big beasts” such as Alibaba, Tencent and Baidu, which are collectively known as BAT, as well as JD.com, the massive e-commerce and logistics group, are developing creative hubs and pumping billions of yuan into artificial intelligence projects.
Last year, China’s Ministry of Science and Technology identified the BAT grouping and voice AI specialist iFlyTek as the advanced guard, or “national champions,” to spur R&D.
In January, a $2.1 billion blueprint was unveiled to build an AI industrial park in the suburbs of Beijing. Not even the trade war with the US, or the slowing economy, will curtail the program.
“Even if Washington could strong-arm US firms into cutting off China for strategic reasons, their advanced [high-tech] competitors are unlikely to follow,” John Lee, who was a visiting fellow at the Mercator Institute for China Studies in Berlin, wrote in The Interpreter, which is published by the Lowy Institute, an influential Australian think tank.
“Rising state and private funding in China for AI has created a virtuous cycle of talent recruitment and technical advance, which is starting to manifest in academic research, industry recognition and marketable applications,” he continued.
“Conversely, Chinese tech firms need to go abroad for scarce talent. They are aggressively hiring in Silicon Valley and at leading US universities, while Baidu, Didi [Chuxing, the Uber-like online company,] and now Tencent all run AI research labs in the US,” Lee added.
Yet the changing geopolitical landscape has put Beijing on the defensive, especially when it comes to the “Made in China 2025” policy. During the past three months, a senior official and a respected academic have played down the country’s high-tech prowess.
“China still lags decades behind developed countries,” Xin Guobin, the vice-minister of the Industry and Information Technology Ministry, told a forum in Beijing, which was reported by the state-owned China News Service.
Liu Yadong, the editor-in-chief of the Science and Technology Daily, was even more candid in his assessment. Speaking to a select audience at a seminar in the Chinese capital in June, he issued a blunt warning.
“The large gap in science and technology between China and developed countries in the West, including the US, should be common knowledge, and not a problem,” Liu said. “But it became problematic when the people who hype [China’s achievements] … fooled the leadership, the public and even themselves.”
Still, for the “Keeko Generation,” this wave of AI development will eventually transform their lives and herald a new age of more sophisticated robots with Made in China stamped on them.
“Made in China 2025” Series
Part 1: Welcome to this brave new world with Chinese characteristics
Part 2: Robots, chips and the pursuit of China’s tech dreams
Part 3: Speed bumps ahead as smart cars and clean energy fuel China’s rise
Part 4: How fintech is turning China’s cities into cashless societies
The Middle Kingdom continues to march forward!!!
——- Matters For Judgment ——-
OK. Should I swear at my robot, will it get a complex?
If I tell it the only one doing the thinking around here is Me, will it be miffed?
And if I was back in China living on the 15th floor of an apartment block wherein I sent my robot on a one-way trip down the rubbish chute, will I be arrested?
What if my self-evolving robot should develop a passive-aggressive manipulative authoritarian personality, should I send it to a psychiatrist or just quietly place it in the middle of a busy highway one late night?
Is thinking these things suggestive of me being in the grip of an Anti-Social Personality Disorder, co-morbid with Paranoid Delusional Personality Disorder?
I remain deeply troubled by these imponderable, challenging questions . . .
The US is lagging other Superpowers in AI and weaponized neuroscience. China and Russia is investing a lot in AI, both for military and civillian use. A and neuroscience is here and cannot be un-invented, only regulated. China is expected to have 75% of the world market in neuro science by 2020. They have better supercomputers than others in the market. The Chinese market share in AI technology is expected to rise.
We should not underestimate China. China have come up with the idea, spending money on research and development (R&D) is better than spending money on wars and destruction. (Who knew?).
AI and Weaponized neuroscience is both scary and amazing. It can be very beneficial, OR destroy mankind!
The methods used in US/NATO AI + weaponized neuroscience is despicable and I have seen no such behavior from Russia and China. There has been upgrades in the US Mind Control programs from MK Eagle 1.0 to MK Eagle 2.0 (MK Eagle is just a nickname and these programs has many different names), the newer version can create synthetic dreams, interactive movies/graphics, hypnoses, and advanced holograms. Truly amazing technology, where AI is used.
The US/NATO weaponized neuroscience has been developed at a very high human cost. Not consenting individuals has been used and techniques used is no less than torture. The testing of these programs has been unethical and irresponsible resulting in human tragedies.
EU and Russia are in favor of more transparency and regulation in and AIneuroscience and direct energy weapon programs. The US is mute. Some of the AI and Direct enegy weapons is so classified politicians have no idea they exist. This despite DARPA, scientists, Pentagon and the TI victims can verify these programs exists.
The time is overdue for lawmakers to wake up and stop the unethical testing on not-consenting individuals. The fact “Chips” is no longer needed, makes this technology highly dangerous. AI &Neuro Science hackers exist, and they can do a lot of damage since these programs can be mortal, Neuro pharmaceuticals becomes more sophisticated and you can make, and individual infested just by liquids and nano-particulars find their right place in the body without any surgery.
Dr. James Giordian, a self-appointed protector of ethical neuroscience, must be aware of the illegal use of AI and neuroscience, but does nothing to advice against it. In my humble opinion Dr. James Giordian is the fox taking care of the hen house.
I question the military value in the US/NATO testing of AI & neuroscience programs and the use of private entities that commit crimes with impunity. What is interesting is that the same methods used in the US yesting is used all over Europe and even in Australia. The US/NATO has taken a wrong path by using its citizens as Guinea pigs.
The US/NATO should spend their money on developing protective technology, because AI and weaponized technology will be used in the next big war. Hackers penetrating the neuroscience technology pose a big danger.
There are good sides with this technology. It seems China and Russia is focusing more on the good use of AI technology and neuroscience. Japan seems interested in using AI for sex-dolls. LOL.
Scientists think they can cure many deceases. It can erase memory from trauma victims. It allegedly can help people with Alzheimer and spinal cord injuries to a more normal life. Facebook will use signals from the brains speech center to communicate with Facebook and test shows you are able to “type” 50+ words a minute without using a keyboard. It also enables rapid learning. Dr. Robert Duncan (Ex-DARPA) said he spent 24 years in school, think how rapid the learning would be if you just downloaded all the books and lectures. Mass control weapons can turn violent demonstration to become peaceful by just using not audible low frequency sound waves
In war we have seen Dr. Duncan (US military research, DARPA) “Voice of God” technology save a lot of lives on both sides in wars.
Russia and the EU want to have the technology regulated and monitored. No answer from the US!
President Putin says the one with the best direct energy weapon controls the world. The late professor Stephen Hawkins said the technology could destroy mankind, Elon Musk (Neuralink), and Bill Gates (Microsoft) warns of abuse of this technology. I am afraid they are concerned a little bit too late, the abuse has been going on for a long time. The time is overdue to develop protection technology. There are devices already developed but only to protect a limited number of people.
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