AI in All: Tencent’s ambitious AI plans for business partners

The 2017 Tencent Global Partners Conference (TGPC) opened on November 8 at the Western China International Expo City in Chengdu. The event’s theme of “Open · Creation” refers to AI, which has become a driving force for a multitude of industries across the globe. For Tencent, AI is also a strategic initiative, and thus the company has established research and development centers, as well as labs in China, the US, and other regions. Tencent integrates its AI-related technologies with real industrial cases, and has made significant progress in recent years. Its applications cover various sectors such as social networks, medical, multimedia, gaming, retail, finance, translation, and so on.

Over the past six years since it announced its open strategy in 2011,Tencent has accumulated more than 13 million partners like software and application developers, created 25 million jobs, and paid 23 billion yuan in dividends. Lin Songtao, vice president of the company, announced these gains at Tencent’s seventh global partner conference.

Tencent claims that it support its partners with an AI-backed system that allows developers to produce products at a lower cost, as well as supports its user traffic with tech services such as AI, APIs, cloud computing, and storage and other resources. Thus, its partners can release products with minimal investment.

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Tencent operates an incubator unit called WeStart that provides and builds working space, studios, and other equipment in demand to facilitate its partners’ businesses. Currently, there are 32 WeStart incubators all over the world. Aside from mainland China, it also established locations in Hong Kong, the US, Singapore, and so on. Meanwhile, Tencent’s Qingteng University for entrepreneurs is in this category. Qingteng is a science and technology school run in collaboration with Tsinghua University. It aims to help enterprises improve both their projects and themselves.

As major Chinese Internet companies pursue the development of AI, an industry benchmark has been established, and Tencent has announced a “Three 10 Billion” plan to support startups while encouraging integration of AI technologies with traditional industries.

“In the future, the company will focus on AI-powered technologies and further open up its platform,” Lin, the VP said.

Here are several technologies developed by Tencent, such as cars capable of calculating the best route, ordering meals, and finding parking lots with minimum human intervention. Likewise, there are several startups that Tencent has invested in, like Laiye, YiChe Technology, Huiyihuiying, Pingduoduo and so on.

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Gaming AI

According to Liu Han, Han Liu, Director of Machine Learning of Tencent AI Lab,

“Gaming is the core driving force of modern artificial intelligence development, as AlphaGo’s victory over the human Go world champion and other game-oriented AI technologies are driving AI technologies forward.”

Tencent’s focus on Gaming AI comprises three main components: powers of perception, communication, and decision-making, all of which correspond to our own brains’ processes. The power of perception empowers machines to understand external environments so that they can collect information and data for decision-making, such as sensing the outside world for autonomous driving cars. Thus, machines can convert ambient information and data to actions. For example, autonomous vehicles will decide to turn left or right after analyzing information from the outside environment.

The power of communication empowers machines to use natural language to communicate with humans. As a result, there will be more AI-oriented machines in various areas, such as customer service robots, voice chat bots, and so on. We can expect to learn more about AI technologies from developing gaming AI.

Meanwhile, Tencent is developing AI to play its popular game, Honor of Kings, a multiplayer online battle arena. We can expect to play with AI in more and more gaming cases in the future.

Multimedia AI

Multimedia refers to recognition of image, video, voice, and other content. Currently, Tencent’s multimedia AI technologies are focusing on the development of data annotation, image processing, and augmentation, as well as deep learning. In fact, an AI product developed by Tencent, Miying, has been applied in medical industries to help patients in early cancer screening at hospitals.

Meanwhile, Tencent’s AI lab is working to recognizing content that users post on social media, such as text and images. Through the matching and comparison of this content, Tencent’s AI products can help users to match suitable captions to the photos they capture.

Translation AI

Simultaneous interpretation is widely used in various industrial and commercial cases. Tencent’s plans in translation AI are committed to integrate with the latest algorithms, so that we can talk with machines via natural language.

Translation refers not only to translation between different languages, such as Chinese to English, but also to the intelligent interpretation of natural languages and specific actions. These technologies will depend on deep learning algorithms and big data for support.

There are also some startups Tencent has invested in with capital, as well as provided with access to its AI capabilities, technologies, and traffic support.

Laiye App

Laiye is an AI-oriented assistant app that looks a bit like a messaging app but has different functionality. When users make specific requests such as ”get me a coffee” or “book me a flight”, the app connects to other services to fulfill users’ demands.

For some cases that can not be solved by AI alone, Laiye arranges human assistants to monitor in real-time whether users’ requests are met, said Wang Guanchen, CEO of Laiye, at the Tencent Global Partner Conference.

Laiye targets business customers, providing them with AI-oriented assistant solutions. It likewise provides individual users with assistant services based on apps and WeChat. Laiye’s AI-oriented products connect with Tencent’s AI open platform, and the app serves individual users through WeChat. This means it can easily spread its services via WeChat and thus enjoy WeChat’s large user traffic and social media exposure.

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YiChe Technology

YiChe Technology is a parking networking solution provider that seeks to utilize technology of the mobile Internet, AI technology, and big data in order to solve parking problems in urban areas. YiChe provides temporary roadside lane parking management and road parking charging management, operations integration solution and other vehicle network services.

Currently, YiChe’s services cover more than 20 cities across China, with 9 subsidiaries. Moreover, the company operates over one million parking spaces and 1800 parking lots, and has more than 11 million users on its platform. YiChe plans to expand its services to a “smart city”, a vision to allow people to enjoy convenient, safe, and intelligent transportation services.

According to She Zhideng, the CEO of YiChe Technology, Tencent’s support lies in the following several sectors:

Technology: YiChe’s parking networking solution is based on Tencent’s AI and cloud computing, enabling it to save costs on recruiting developers and building networking infrastructure for its services.

Qingteng University: YiChe is a member of Tencent’s Qingteng University, from which it benefits from enterprise-related services and resources to facilitate its businesses.

WeChat ecosystem: YiChe’s services are partly based on WeChat. For example, users can scan QR codes via WeChat to order parking spaces or complete payments. Additionally, it is easy to maintain users through WeChat, which owns 900 million users.

In conclusion, Tencent’s strategy in AI-related cases is not entirely based in AI, and instead seeks to build its ecosystem and open its AI platform. This will empower its partners and facilitate their businesses and innovations, ultimately in order to achieve a win-win situation.

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Kaikai Shi

Kaikai Shi writes for us. He holds a bachelor's degree in Biotechnology at Zhejiang University. His interests are in new technology and reading. Kai believes that new technology will change the world we live in, and is trying to engage himself in this process.

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