China investing heavily into AI
China will boost growth of its artificial intelligence sector over the next three years, through a specific innovation program.
Last year, China’s state planner, the National Development and Reform Commission, released a blueprint on investing in fundamental innovation in order to make breakthroughs on basic AI core technology.
Under the strategy, national government departments will identify supportive fiscal policies for the sector and boost international cooperation. The strategy will involve key projects such as developing intelligent home appliances, smart automobiles, intelligent wearable devices and robots.
The strategy was jointly formulated by the National Development and Reform Commission, the Ministry of Science and Technology, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology and the Cyberspace Administration of China.
Under the plan, China aims to create a market worth more than US$15.26 billion. Research vendor i-Research expects the value of China’s AI market to reach US$9.1 billion in 2020, growing at a 50 percent annual compound rate.
Industry analysts and venture capitalists predict that AI will will lead to medical breakthroughs and replace human beings for managerial and technical jobs, as well as manual labor jobs. China has been promoting both AI and the robotics industry as it works to upgrade its manufacturing sector and address labor shortages.
AI involves two major biometric modalities: image recognition and speech processing. A key component of China’s AI sector has been investment by start-up firms in image recognition for financial technology, surveillance and autonomous driving. Analysts expect AI will also to be used in natural language processing to understand both medical records and conversations between doctors and patients, as well as in image recognition applied for CT scans in order to identify specific illnesses.
In terms of investment in AI ventures, China was in second place in 2016 with US$2.6 billion, followed by the United Kingdom, which spent US$800 million, according to data from Chinese think tank WuZhen Institute. The United States led the list with US$17.9 billion.