Google, Amazon and Microsoft have spent years investing large amounts of money in platforms of artificial intelligence, which has caused that this technology is focusing on the West, specifically in the United States. Well now it seems that this “exclusivity” could end soon, since the Chinese giant Baidu has just presented its first artificial intelligence chip.
The chip is called ‘Kunlun’ and it is a project that started in 2011. With this chip, Baidu would seek to develop exclusive hardware for machine learning applications, with which his country would stop relying on American technology, something that now They would like it very much in the face of the problems they have had with the United States, such as the case of ZTE and the “tariff wars”.
Kunlun: “up to 30% more powerful than current FPGA chips”
According to Baidu, Kunlun is optimized for various artificial intelligence tasks, such as voice and facial recognition, natural language processing, image recognition and autonomous driving . But it will be necessary to wait until 2019 so that the interested companies can accede to him, since for the moment the company assures that it is not ready for a massive production.
The importance of this chip is not only by its capabilities and possibilities, but it is the first artificial intelligence chip developed entirely in China, with which Baidu seeks to implement a completely autonomous infrastructure in his country.
According to the figures of Baidu, Kunlun is up to 30 times faster and more powerful than the current chips, and its development represented an expenditure of 15% of its annual income during the last seven years, so we would be before the most important project of the company , and with which they seek to compete against the great American technology.
Baidu not only announced the arrival of its new chip, but also presented its new division that will be in charge of everything related to artificial intelligence, something similar to Google Brain. The difference is that Baidu wants to group all the Chinese companies in order to create a single force that does not depend on the United States.
Also, the chip and all the tools will be available to any developer interested in any part of the world, since Baidu seeks to consolidate itself as a force within the development of artificial intelligence not only in China, but throughout the planet.
Autonomous driving is the first step
The first implementation that we will see of Kunlun will be at the end of this 2018 when 100 ‘Apolong’ autonomous trucks begin to operate in some company campuses in China. At the beginning of 2019, these trucks will take to the streets for the first time to provide transportation services in Japan, thanks to an alliance with SB Drive, Softbank’s autonomous public transport subsidiary.
The Apolong trucks have a capacity for 14 passengers, they do not have a steering wheel or space for a driver. Its level of autonomy is SAE 4 and that makes it possible to operate in large part of large Japanese cities without the need for a human driver or a security person.
Apolong is based on the autonomous driving platform of Baidu, ‘Apollo’, which we had the opportunity to meet last year during CES Asia 2017. In fact, for this year Baidu announced that Apollo will be updated with new features such as facial recognition to detect to a tired driver, as well as compatibility with parking systems via valet parking.
Finally, Baidu confirmed an important alliance with Mobileye, now owned by Intel and who helped with the development of the Tesla Autopilot. This will allow Baidu’s next autonomous cars to incorporate new security systems such as cameras and computer vision software based on vehicle sensors.
As we see, it seems that Baidu this year is determined to bet everything in segments that are growing significantly, which would seek to leave that image of “Internet search engine” and thus reaffirm its position as the most important technology company in China.