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Baidu, Inc. today hosted Baidu World 2020, its annual flagship technology conference, where the company unveiled new smart products and AI upgrades, and demonstrated how its cutting-edge AI technologies are transforming industries and improving people’s everyday lives.
With the theme “Intelligence of Everything”, the conference was held online in partnership with CCTV and livestreamed over Baidu App to users, developers, partners, media, and investors.
“The next ten years will be the era of the intelligent economy, as AI brings transformative changes to every industry,” said Robin Li, Co-founder, Chairman, and CEO of Baidu, in his speech at the conference. “The intelligent transformation of industry will bring convenience to people’s lives and promote economic development.”
Baidu is at the forefront of building the intelligent economy, with its suite of AI technologies already being applied across industries and life scenarios, as was highlighted at Baidu World 2020. Baidu Apollo, the world’s largest autonomous driving open platform, demonstrated Fully Automated Driving in a livestream and unveiled the cutting-edge 5G Remote Driving Service. Baidu launched DuerOS 6.0, the latest version of its conversational AI system, as well as XiaoduPods, true wireless smart earbuds that represent Baidu’s first portable consumer electronics product. The Baidu Mobile Ecosystem Group (MEG) released the innovative virtual assistant app Duxiaoxiao as part of its strategy to offer personalized services through mobile platforms, while Robin Li conversed with lifelike virtual persons on stage. The company also announced that AI open platform Baidu Brain has been upgraded to version 6.0 and will continue serving as a pillar of “new infrastructure” that supports the intelligent transformation of industry.
Apollo Makes Key Breakthroughs in Autonomous Driving Technology
At Baidu World 2020, Apollo showcased Fully Automated Driving—autonomous driving without a backup driver in the vehicle—a breakthrough resulting from seven years of continuous innovation that will accelerate the large-scale deployment and commercialization of autonomous driving technology. Zhenyu Li, Corporate Vice President of Baidu and General Manager of Intelligent Driving Group (IDG), demonstrated the capability through a livestream from Beijing’s Shougang Park, where he accompanied CCTV anchor Xiaofeng Bao on a drive in an unmanned robotaxi.
Zhenyu Li outlined that Fully Automated Driving has three core components, and Apollo has made significant advancements in all three. The first is an “experienced AI driver”, referring to an autonomous driving system that can independently operate without a backup driver in the vehicle. Through six million kilometers of road testing and having carried 100,000 passengers across 27 cities, with a record low of zero accidents, Apollo has successfully trained its autonomous driving system to operate an unmanned vehicle.
The second core component is the 5G Remote Driving Service which Apollo unveiled at Baidu World 2020 for the first time. Based on smart transportation systems, vehicle-to-everything (V2X) technologies, and high-speed 5G networks, the 5G Remote Driving Service allows human operators to remotely control vehicles in the case of emergencies.
The last component is pre-installed and mass-produced autonomous vehicles, which offer better safety performance than modified vehicles. Apollo has released its fifth-generation autonomous driving kit, and the first Apollo pre-installed and mass-produced vehicles that meet requirements for unmanned operations will be launched soon. Moreover, car-maker Weltmeister will launch a new model in 2021 equipped with Apollo’s L4 autonomous valet parking technology, allowing people to park and summon the vehicle autonomously. In addition to these technological advancements and key steps towards the commercialization of autonomous driving, Apollo has inked several strategic cooperation agreements with Chongqing, Hefei, and Yangquan over the past half year, making Baidu the leader and driving force of smart transportation infrastructure development in China.
DuerOS 6.0 Breaks Boundaries with XiaoduPods Launch
During the conference, Baidu announced the upgrade of DuerOS, its conversational AI system, to version 6.0. As the largest system of its kind in China, DuerOS receives over 5.8 billion monthly voice queries, and has more than 40,000 developers and over 4,000 skills. Kun Jing, Corporate Vice President of Baidu and General Manager of Smart Living Group (SLG), said that DuerOS is already deployed in a wide range of scenarios through the Xiaodu AI voice assistant, including in homes, hotels, and cars. The upgrade to DuerOS 6.0 aligns with the “break boundaries” strategy, as it will allow DuerOS to power even more applications and fulfill even more user needs.
In line with that strategy, Baidu launched XiaoduPods at the conference. The first portable product in the Xiaodu lineup, XiaoduPods are true wireless smart earbuds powered by DuerOS 6.0, offering voice-controlled search, navigation, calling, and music functions. XiaoduPods also feature the cutting-edge “Wandering Earth” mode, which provides real-time translation between one user speaking Chinese and another user speaking English. Bringing the power of AI to users wherever they go, XiaoduPods will retail at first for only RMB 199.
Baidu World 2020 demonstrated the various transformative applications of voice assistant technology. At the CCTV studio, Robin Li and news anchor Hui Kang chatted naturally with Xiaodu about ordinary household subjects, and also spoke with people at Beijing’s Guofengmeitang Community, where about 200 elderly households have been outfitted with Xiaodu smart displays providing entertainment and health services. Kun Jing, speaking from the InterContinental Shanghai Wonderland hotel, showed how Xiaodu devices can be installed to make smart hotel rooms that deliver a better experience to users and benefit the hospitality industry.
AI-Powered Mobile Services
As AI changes people’s lives, it is also improving the way people find information and access services. In line with these broad changes, Baidu launched the Duxiaoxiao virtual assistant app, an innovative search product based on DuerOS. Duxiaoxiao not only provides users with a range of information and services, users can also directly converse with the app to help solve everyday life questions. Over time, the app will change to suit each user’s needs based on their habits. Leveraging the power of AI, Baidu App has already changed from a simple search tool into a robust “super app” that provides a wide-range of personalized services to the over 230 million daily active users (DAUs) of the app and the roughly 500 million monthly active users (MAUs) of its Smart Mini Programs.
Baidu App has also been serving as the exclusive partner for the naming process of China’s first Mars rover. The final 10 candidates were released at Baidu World 2020, which included the Xiaodu-generated idea “Zhuque” (Vermillion Bird), a Chinese mythical bird.
Baidu Brain Upgraded to 6.0
Baidu CTO Haifeng Wang released the upgraded Baidu Brain 6.0, which has become a key form of “new infrastructure” by supporting AI industrial applications and Baidu Cloud. As one of the largest AI open platforms, Baidu Brain has already opened more than 270 core AI capabilities for 2.3 million developers, becoming a key driver of the intelligent transformation of a wide range of industries. Deep learning platform PaddlePaddle’s recent API (Application Programming Interface) upgrade allows developers to build and deploy models more efficiently, while the next-generation of Baidu’s self-developed AI chip Kunlun has significantly higher performance and is soon to be launched.
Baidu Brain 6.0 is also the driving force behind Baidu’s development of virtual persons. At Baidu World 2020, two virtual persons modelled after younger versions of Robin Li and Hui Kang in appearance, movements, and voice were unveiled and came on stage to talk with their human counterparts.