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Exploring WAIC 2022: 5 highlights from the metaverse and AI-focused Shanghai tech event

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Exploring WAIC 2022: 5 highlights from the metaverse and AI-focused Shanghai tech event

On Thursday, the annual World Artificial Intelligence Conference (WAIC) officially opened in Shanghai. This year’s conference places a heavy focus on the trendy topic of the metaverse, aiming to demonstrate the integration of artificial intelligence with the metaverse and to look at what the future holds for these technologies.

Ken Hu, rotating chairman of Huawei, said at the opening ceremony that AI can only realize its greatest value when it is deeply integrated into operation scenarios across all industries. He also called for building a computing power network, connecting different data and computing centers across the nation. Meanwhile, he pointed out that because powerful machine learning models are costly to develop and time-consuming, industries and academic researchers should team up and collaborate to cut down “duplicated investment and development.”

Robin Li, co-founder and CEO of Baidu, discussed various AI implementations the search engine company adopts, such as autonomous driving and content generation. He said some of the video content on Baidu are generated by AI based on published articles. Those AIGC (AI-generated content) costs only a tenth of the cost of human-created content and a fraction of the speed.

“AI is critical in the metaverse due to the metaverse’s needs to adapt to changing environments and user preferences,” Qualcomm president and CEO Cristiano Amon said at the ceremony, adding that the processing of massive data in the metaverse will push the expansion of AI processing capability to edge computing, which will result in more large-scale deployment of AI applications.

One of the highlights of WAIC 2022 on the ground is the “Metaverse Core Exhibition,” which focuses on the AI+Metaverse industry ecosystem, and in particular, examines the two dimensions of virtual experience and reality display. Some of the key technology displayed include various chips for AI models and servers, large-scale machine learning models, autonomous vehicles, and surgical robots, among others. Here are some of the highlighted products from our visits to the event:

1. Baidu’s machine learning model Wenxin 

Artificial intelligence has entered the era of developing large-scale machine learning models since 2018, integrating smaller and dispersed models into a powerful one. 

In 2020, OpenAI’s NLP model GPT-3 kickstarted the AI large-scale model arms race. Google, Microsoft, Meta (formerly Facebook), Huawei, Alibaba, Huawei, and other tech giants have all become involved in it. 

Baidu’s large-scale model “PCL-BAIDU Wenxin” is a generalized model developed by Baidu for various general scenarios and combined with the capabilities of the Baidu Knowledge Graph. It is widely used in the energy, finance, and aerospace sectors. Baidu also uses the model to offer AI painting to consumers. 

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Taking the creative service platform “Yige” as an example, it can generate paintings based on the user’s text inputs. Two minutes after TechNode’s reporter entered “Godzilla in the Moonlight,” the system created seven different styles of paintings and labeled corresponding use cases.

Baidu’s “Yige” platform generated seven styles of illustration based on text descriptions. Credit: Jasmine Zheng/TechNode

This application is currently at the internal testing stage and is expected to be open to users for payment in the future, according to the official introduction. Compared with foreign AI painting products such as Google’s Imagen, Baidu’s “Yige” has a strong ability to generate images for different styles, and it also understands Chinese semantics better. 

2. Ant Group’s privacy computing technology  “SecretFlow”

As data become a key resource in society, many industries are facing new challenges in ensuring cybersecurity and data security. Against this backdrop, privacy-preserving computing can be a key technology to balance data security and data circulation, involving numerous professional technology stacks.

In July, Chinese fintech giant Ant Group officially made its privacy-preserving computation framework “SecretFlow” open source for global developers.

According to Ant Group’s on-site staff at WAIC, SecretFlow is an integrated work of privacy-preserving computation technology and application that the Chinese tech giant has precipitated for six years, incorporating more than a thousand patents and covering all mainstream privacy computing technologies. SecretFlow has made a major breakthrough in Trusted-Environment-based Cryptographic Computing (TECC), which can achieve modeling and analysis of one billion dense samples per hour. 

3. Biren BR100 GPU chip 

Shanghai-based Biren Technology, a domestic high-end GPU chip unicorn revealed its first general-purpose GPU chip series, the BR100 at this year’s WAIC.

The BR100 is based on the original chip architecture developed by Biren Technology, with a 7nm process that can accommodate 77 billion transistors, and this product is the first to adopt chiplet technology and PCIe 5.0 PCI Express, as well as supporting CXL protocols in China. 

A representative from the firm told TechNode that the BR100 will be major a rival to the forthcoming Nvidia H100, which will be affected by a new US ban on exports of high-end GPU chips to China, though Biren is yet to confirm when its new chip will go into mass production. 

Biren’s BR100. Credit: Jasmine Zheng/TechNode

This chip will be mainly deployed in data servers to provide computing power for large-scale AI training scenarios, smart cities, and the metaverse.

4. Westwell’s driverless vehicle Q-Truck

As a company that’s gone global from Shanghai, Westwell Technology uses artificial intelligence and driverless technology to explore developments in autonomous logistics.

The company’s Q-Truck, the world’s first intelligent battery-swap driverless commercial vehicle, can fully recharge in as little as 6 minutes without the need for a human to intervene in the process.

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Westwell’s autonomous vehicles are widely used in ports. Credit: Jasmine Zheng/TechNode

According to Westwell, the Q-Truck has a load capacity of 80 tons and a battery life of 200 kilometers. What’s more, the fleet system is able to manage multiple unmanned trucks at the same time, achieving mixed operation between driverless and manned vehicles due to the integration of digital systems.

5. HiScene’s industrial AR glasses and software 

As one of the leading industrial AR companies in China, HiScene presented its AR glasses HiAR H100, AR remote communication and collaboration platform HiLeia, and AR real-time spatial editor PinNotes at WAIC this year.

The majority of HiScene’s user cases are in factories and various manufacturing industries. Helping technicians to do more accurate remote inspections and other remote duties. 

HiScene’s staff showcases its AR glass and software. Credit: Jasmine Zheng/TechNode

With PinNotes, users can directly add associated virtual content to reference objects in the physical world via AR glasses or cellphones, which will then be saved to the AR platform and can be read out for re-editing and viewing, bringing users an experience of spatial interconnection, virtual-real integration and intelligent interaction.

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China says Biden comments likening leader Xi to a dictator ‘extremely absurd and irresponsible’

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China says Biden comments likening leader Xi to a dictator ‘extremely absurd and irresponsible’

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden’s remarks calling Chinese leader Xi Jinping a “dictator” and China a country with “real economic difficulties” drew fast condemnation from China on Wednesday, cracking open a new rift just after the two countries agreed to tentative steps to stabilize the relationship.

In Beijing, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning condemned Biden’s unusually pointed comments as “extremely absurd and irresponsible.”

The clash of words comes after Secretary of State Antony Blinken concluded a visit to Beijing on Monday that sought to break the ice in a relationship that has hit a historical low. While both sides saw those talks as productive, they did not result in any significant breakthroughs beyond an agreement to return to a broad agenda for cooperation and competition.

China’s quick response to Biden, a president known for seemingly off-script remarks that venture beyond his administration’s policies, raises questions whether his remarks would undo the limited progress that had been made in Blinken’s carefully engineered trip or whether the two sides would move on.

Biden’s characterization of China comes as the campaign for next year’s presidential election is already taking off, with Republicans accusing him of being weak on China.

Biden also was preparing to welcome Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Washington on Wednesday evening for a lavish state visit where a central theme will be a shared wariness of China.

Biden, at a fundraiser in California on Tuesday night, referred back to January and February’s two-week overflight of what the U.S. says was a Chinese spy balloon. The balloon’s surprise appearance over U.S. skies roiled relations and transfixed the American public.

Speaking to wealthy donors at the event for his 2024 reelection campaign, Biden depicted Xi as out-of-touch and embarrassed by the incident, which ended with the Air Force shooting down the balloon just off the East Coast.

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“The reason why Xi Jinping got very upset in terms of when I shot that balloon down with two box cars full of spy equipment is he didn’t know it was there,” Biden told the crowd.

“No, I’m serious,” he added. “That was the great embarrassment for dictators, when they didn’t know what happened.“

Biden also played down trade competition from China, which is the world’s second-biggest economy after the United States but struggling to emerge from COVID-era financial troubles.

“By the way, I promise you, don’t worry about China. Worry about China but don’t worry about China,” Biden said. “I really mean it. China has real economic difficulties.”

Biden’s remarks came hours after his secretary of state, in an interview with MSNBC, had called for the two countries to put the balloon incident behind them, saying it was a chapter that “should be closed.”

In Beijing on Wednesday, Mao told reporters that Biden’s remarks “go totally against facts and seriously violate diplomatic protocol, and severely infringe on China’s political dignity.”

“It is a blatant political provocation,” Mao said.

Mao also reiterated China’s version of the balloon episode, saying the balloon was for meteorological research and had been accidentally blown off course.

Administration officials signaled Wednesday that Biden had no intention of walking back his comments.

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Biden and Blinken have made clear “we will continue to responsibly manage this relationship, maintain open lines of communication with the PRC,” Vedant Patel, a State Department spokesman, told reporters, using an abbreviation for the People’s Republic of China.

“But that, of course, does not mean we will not be blunt and forthright about our differences,” including differences on the global competition between democracies and autocracies, Patel said.

U.S.-China tensions have mounted for years as rivalry builds over trade and global influence. Repeated flare-ups have helped escalate the tensions, including over the balloon, U.S. tariffs, sanctions on China, and self-ruled Taiwan.

The U.S. is pressing China to embrace direct communications between Biden, Xi and other senior U.S. and Chinese military and civilian leaders, as a channel to defuse tensions and keep incidents from escalating into open hostilities.

Despite the administration’s diplomatic efforts to soothe relations, analysts point to the Republican political pressure, and note Biden regularly seems to go off-script to criticize Xi.

Bonnie Glaser, Asia director of the George Marshall Fund of the United States, pointed Wednesday to Biden’s state of the union address in February, soon after the balloon flight, as Republican lawmakers in the audience heckled him over China and other issues. Waving a finger in the air, Biden cried out, “Name me a world leader who’d change places with Xi Jinping! Name me one! Name me one!”

For Biden, “he’s under a lot of criticism from the right. He doesn’t want to be seen as soft on China. He views Xi Jinping as a dictator,” Glaser said.

“And he’s not very good … at differentiating what should be said in public and what should be said in private,” Glaser said. “And the relationship pays a price for it. There’s no doubt about it.”

Xi was likely upset by the claim that he hadn’t been fully informed about the balloon incident, said Steve Tsang, director of the China Institute at the London University School of Oriental and African Studies and a longtime observer of Chinese politics.

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“My sense is that Xi may not want to overreact and put the relationship back on ice again,” Tsang said in an email.

The initial Republican response to Biden’s remarks was approving. “It’s an appropriate description of their system of government,” Sen. Marco Rubio, the top Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said.

While Xi heads a country formally named the People’s Republic of China, he faces no limits on his terms as head of state, commander of the military and leader of the ruling Communist Party, which brooks no challenges to its authority.

In California, Biden had told donors that Xi “wants to have a relationship again.”

Blinken “went over there … did a good job, and it’s going to take time,” he said.

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Associated Press writer Seung Min Kim contributed to this report.

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Macron appeals to China’s Xi to ‘bring Russia to its senses’

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Macron appeals to China’s Xi to ‘bring Russia to its senses’

BEIJING (AP) — Chinese leader Xi Jinping called Thursday for peace talks over Ukraine after French President Emmanuel Macron appealed to him to “bring Russia to its senses,” but Xi gave no indication Beijing would use its leverage as Vladimir Putin’s diplomatic partner to press for a settlement.

Xi gave no sign China, which declared it had a “no limits friendship” with Moscow before last year’s invasion, had changed its stance since calling for peace talks in February.

“Peace talks should resume as soon as possible,” Xi said. He called on other governments to avoid doing anything that might “make the crisis deteriorate or even get out of control.”

Beijing, which sees Moscow as a partner in opposing U.S. domination of global affairs, has tried to appear neutral in the conflict but has given Putin diplomatic support and repeated Russian justifications for the February 2022 attack. Xi received an effusive welcome from Putin when he visited Moscow last month, giving the isolated Russian president a political boost.

The Chinese leader said “legitimate security concerns of all parties” should be considered, a reference to Moscow’s argument that it attacked Ukraine because of the eastward expansion of NATO, the U.S.-European military alliance.

During talks earlier, Macron appealed to Xi to “bring Russia to its senses and bring everyone back to the negotiating table.”

Macron pointed to Chinese support for the United Nations Charter, which calls for respect of a country’s territorial integrity. He said Putin’s announcement of plans to deploy nuclear weapons in Belarus violated international agreements and commitments to Xi’s government.

“We need to find a lasting peace,” the French president said. “I believe that this is also an important issue for China.”

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Macron was accompanied to Beijing by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen in a show of European unity.

Von der Leyen said she encouraged Xi to call Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, and the Chinese leader “reiterated his willingness to speak when conditions and time are right.”

“I think this is a positive element,” von der Leyen said.

Von der Leyen warned China against sending military equipment to Russia, echoing a warning Wednesday by NATO’s 31 member governments of “severe consequences” for shipments of weapons or ammunition.

“Arming the aggressor is a clear violation of international law,” von der Leyen said. “This would indeed significantly harm the relationship between the European Union and China.”

China is the biggest buyer of Russian oil and gas, which helps prop up the Kremlin’s revenue in the face of Western sanctions. That increases Chinese influence, but Xi appears reluctant to jeopardize that partnership by pressuring Putin.

“China has always adhered to an objective and fair position on the issue of the Ukraine crisis,” said a Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Mao Ning. “We have been an advocate of a political solution to the crisis and a promoter of peace talks.”

Also Wednesday, the French and Chinese governments announced agreements including the purchase of 160 Airbus aircraft by a Chinese leasing company and for their companies to collaborate on nuclear, solar, wind power and biofuel development.

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ITF resumes tennis in China with no word on Peng Shuai

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ITF resumes tennis in China with no word on Peng Shuai

TOKYO (AP) — The International Tennis Federation will play tournaments this year in China with no word of a resolution to the case of Chinese doubles player Peng Shuai.

Peng disappeared from public view shortly after accusing a former high-ranking Communist Party official — in a web posting in November of 2021 — of sexual assault.

The ITF, which conducts tournaments below the elite level in its World Tennis Tour, lists its first tournament in China on June 5-11 at Luzhou. The ITF’s last full season in China was 2019, prior to COVID-19.

“The ITF anticipates a resumption of tournament activity within China for each of the ITF Tours later this year,” the ITF said in a statement.

The WTA, which runs the sport’s top-tier women’s events, hasn’t announced if it will resume staging tournaments in China.

In late 2021, WTA Chairman and CEO Steve Simon announced that the WTA would be suspending all of its tournaments — including the season-ending WTA Finals — that were held in China because of concerns over Peng, costing the tour millions.

The men’s ATP has scheduled several event for later this year in China. It canceled 2022 events because of COVID-19 restrictions in China.

Peng gave a controlled interview a year ago during the Winter Olympics in Beijing and had dinner at the event with International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach. She left many questions unanswered and has largely been out of public view since then.

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Simon has repeatedly called for a “formal investigation” into the allegations made by Peng, and has asked to meet privately with Peng. It’s not clear those conditions have been met.

In a statement announcing the ITF men’s and women’s tournaments returning to China, ITF President David Haggerty said the sport’s world governing body had to invest in the professional events that worked as “the main artery for the top level of the game.”

“As the global guardians of the game, we are passionate about providing a pathway for up and coming talent in all countries, and providing more opportunities for players to play closer to home,” Haggerty said, adding that the ITF was pleased to be returning to countries such as China, Burundi, Cyprus, Trinidad & Tobago and Taiwan.

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AP Tennis: https://apnews.com/hub/tennis and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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