RISE was a bit different yesterday morning. On every attendee’s chair is a simultaneous translation headset—Wang Xiaochuan, the Chinese-speaking CEO of Sogou was here to speak on artificial intelligence to an international community of investors, entrepreneurs, and industry players.

Some attendees start to take off their headsets as they notice the live translation subtitles on the big screen behind Wang. “My entire talk today is supported by Sogou’s simultaneous machine translation,” Wang reminds the audience, gesturing at the transcription of his Chinese speech, line by line, with near real-time English translation rolling across the screen as he speaks. The Chinese dictation is almost error-free, as long as Wang is articulating in complete sentences. The English translation, though clunky, is good enough to grasp the general idea of Wang’s speech.

Just as industry observers speculate whether Sogou Search is being abandoned by its investor Tencent with the launch of WeChat’s in-app “search” function, Wang is taking the company in a new direction—”natural human-machine interaction.”

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Rita Liao

Telling the uncommon China stories through tech. I can be reached at ritacyliao [at] gmail [dot] com.