COVID-19 and AI | Key Takeaways from Webinar 'AI in China: 2020 and Beyond'

Technology, Healthcare, Financials Author: Yingwei Fu, Ivan Platonov Editor: Luke Sheehan Jul 08, 2020 06:28 PM (GMT+8)

EqualOcean held an online event on June 30. Here is what 500 Startups' Stella Zheng and Zhuiyi Technology's Terry Ke think about the pandemic and AI.

WIM Salon X Online: AI in China: 2020 and Beyond

EqualOcean held a live webinar on the topic 'AI in China: 2020 and Beyond' with Terry Ke, Strategy Director of Zhuiyi Technology, and Stella Zheng, head of Mainland China of 500 Startups. We discussed the status quo of AI’s development in China and the challenges ahead of passionate entrepreneurs. AI has become a norm these days. Certainly worth a conversation. Below are the key insights from our webinar.

In this series of follow-up articles, we will walk through selected insights shared by our guest speakers. The topics include:

AI in China: COVID19 and AI

AI in China: Challenges

AI in China: Good Practice

AI in China: Future

EqualOcean: Over the past decade, Artificial Intelligence (AI) has greatly improved in terms of both software and hardware. The main reason is that the technologies finally found real business applications – from voice assistants to vast surveillance systems. McKinsey projected last year that the AI-related industry would grow to a 13-trillion-dollar market by 2030. And the heat of venture capital (VC) in the sector attracts startups to market the ‘AI’ features while, in reality, some of them don’t have anything to do with machine learning.

Challenges typically come hand in hand with opportunities. Let’s kick off the discussion from a common point that most of us are concerned about – the COVID-19 pandemic. The world is combating the outbreak, striving to reduce the negative impacts.

Since our topic today is ‘China and AI,’ can you bring up a few examples of how different companies are leveraging AI to join the battle against the disease?

Stella: Without AI, we cannot win this battle.

AI monitoring systems have been widely applied at public entrances in Shanghai during the pandemic, where CloudWalk Technology is involved; AI medical imaging screening tools developed by Yitu Technology are implemented in hospitals to assist radiologists in diagnosing. Another example is a friend of mine, who is also a professor at Shanghai Jiao Tong University (SJTU) – he received R&D funding of new drug research and development for COVID-19. The new drug research utilizes AI modeling to reveal the relationship between the virus and protein and RNA in our bodies. AI helped speed up the R&D process of new drugs. Another branch of SJTU used AI modeling to predict coronavirus’s developing trends to help control the risks brought by people’s movements and activities.

From my perspective, AI plays an essential role in the battle. In fact, ‘coronavirus’ is a buzzword for the majority of venture capitalists now. Many investors are looking for startups who are working on treatments, cures and detective tools. This should be a short-term boom. From the long-run perspective, we can say that the pandemic attracted people’s attention to AI, which mutually benefited investors and startups.

Terry: The pandemic has tremendously changed our lives. The way we interact with each other, do business, and how the government communicates with citizens to control the disease has changed.

CV (Computational Vision) and NLP (Natural Language Processing) are the two major means to deploy AI. For CV, we have seen numerous robotic solutions that can not only perform facial recognition under the mask but also measure the temperature for screening purposes.

I’m from an NLP company and I can share a few NLP solutions of what my company is specialized. We provide two solutions focusing on communication and information processing.

The first one is the pandemic prevention and control bot, an advanced chatbot based on deep learning allowing text and voice input to provide answers to people’s inquiries related to COVID-19. For example, you can perform a self-screening check, get an answer from a hot question, check out-patient vacancy, access disease prevention tips and the pandemic map. The bot provides 24*7 immediate assistance for users without human interventions in the back.

The second solution is phone bots. They provide services to many local government agencies to make outbound calls automatically. Calls are entirely supported by AI to perform important tasks. For instance, if you have travel history in the past 14 days, the phone bot may call you daily to see if you stay at home and have a good physical condition. If you report a situation, the AI system will notate and call the pandemic controlling officer to follow up with you at once.

During the critical moment, screening is one of the most important and useful ways to curb the spread (of COVID-19). However, we are short of hands, especially for medical professionals. I think the above solutions do the best to release medical pros from repetitive routines and allow them to focus more on critical tasks. Our solutions primarily emphasize interactions, one of the major focus areas of NLP. We are of finding a way to combine the tech with practical solutions to deliver services.

The full record of WIM Salon X Online | AI in China: 2020 and Beyond