On Thursday, the annual World Artificial Intelligence Conference (WAIC) officially opened in Shanghai. This year’s conference places a heavy focus on the trendy topic of the metaverse, aiming to demonstrate the integration of artificial intelligence with the metaverse and to look at what the future holds for these technologies.

Ken Hu, rotating chairman of Huawei, said at the opening ceremony that AI can only realize its greatest value when it is deeply integrated into operation scenarios across all industries. He also called for building a computing power network, connecting different data and computing centers across the nation. Meanwhile, he pointed out that because powerful machine learning models are costly to develop and time-consuming, industries and academic researchers should team up and collaborate to cut down “duplicated investment and development.”

Robin Li, co-founder and CEO of Baidu, discussed various AI implementations the search engine company adopts, such as autonomous driving and content generation. He said some of the video content on Baidu are generated by AI based on published articles. Those AIGC (AI-generated content) costs only a tenth of the cost of human-created content and a fraction of the speed.

“AI is critical in the metaverse due to the metaverse’s needs to adapt to changing environments and user preferences,” Qualcomm president and CEO Cristiano Amon said at the ceremony, adding that the processing of massive data in the metaverse will push the expansion of AI processing capability to edge computing, which will result in more large-scale deployment of AI applications.

One of the highlights of WAIC 2022 on the ground is the “Metaverse Core Exhibition,” which focuses on the AI+Metaverse industry ecosystem, and in particular, examines the two dimensions of virtual experience and reality display. Some of the key technology displayed include various chips for AI models and servers, large-scale machine learning models, autonomous vehicles, and surgical robots, among others. Here are some of the highlighted products from our visits to the event:

1. Baidu’s machine learning model Wenxin 

Artificial intelligence has entered the era of developing large-scale machine learning models since 2018, integrating smaller and dispersed models into a powerful one. 

In 2020, OpenAI’s NLP model GPT-3 kickstarted the AI large-scale model arms race. Google, Microsoft, Meta (formerly Facebook), Huawei, Alibaba, Huawei, and other tech giants have all become involved in it. 

Baidu’s large-scale model “PCL-BAIDU Wenxin” is a generalized model developed by Baidu for various general scenarios and combined with the capabilities of the Baidu Knowledge Graph. It is widely used in the energy, finance, and aerospace sectors. Baidu also uses the model to offer AI painting to consumers. 

Taking the creative service platform “Yige” as an example, it can generate paintings based on the user’s text inputs. Two minutes after TechNode’s reporter entered “Godzilla in the Moonlight,” the system created seven different styles of paintings and labeled corresponding use cases.

Baidu’s “Yige” platform generated seven styles of illustration based on text descriptions. Credit: Jasmine Zheng/TechNode

This application is currently at the internal testing stage and is expected to be open to users for payment in the future, according to the official introduction. Compared with foreign AI painting products such as Google’s Imagen, Baidu’s “Yige” has a strong ability to generate images for different styles, and it also understands Chinese semantics better. 

2. Ant Group’s privacy computing technology  “SecretFlow”

As data become a key resource in society, many industries are facing new challenges in ensuring cybersecurity and data security. Against this backdrop, privacy-preserving computing can be a key technology to balance data security and data circulation, involving numerous professional technology stacks.

In July, Chinese fintech giant Ant Group officially made its privacy-preserving computation framework “SecretFlow” open source for global developers.

According to Ant Group’s on-site staff at WAIC, SecretFlow is an integrated work of privacy-preserving computation technology and application that the Chinese tech giant has precipitated for six years, incorporating more than a thousand patents and covering all mainstream privacy computing technologies. SecretFlow has made a major breakthrough in Trusted-Environment-based Cryptographic Computing (TECC), which can achieve modeling and analysis of one billion dense samples per hour. 

3. Biren BR100 GPU chip 

Shanghai-based Biren Technology, a domestic high-end GPU chip unicorn revealed its first general-purpose GPU chip series, the BR100 at this year’s WAIC.

The BR100 is based on the original chip architecture developed by Biren Technology, with a 7nm process that can accommodate 77 billion transistors, and this product is the first to adopt chiplet technology and PCIe 5.0 PCI Express, as well as supporting CXL protocols in China. 

A representative from the firm told TechNode that the BR100 will be major a rival to the forthcoming Nvidia H100, which will be affected by a new US ban on exports of high-end GPU chips to China, though Biren is yet to confirm when its new chip will go into mass production. 

Biren’s BR100. Credit: Jasmine Zheng/TechNode

This chip will be mainly deployed in data servers to provide computing power for large-scale AI training scenarios, smart cities, and the metaverse.

4. Westwell’s driverless vehicle Q-Truck

As a company that’s gone global from Shanghai, Westwell Technology uses artificial intelligence and driverless technology to explore developments in autonomous logistics.

The company’s Q-Truck, the world’s first intelligent battery-swap driverless commercial vehicle, can fully recharge in as little as 6 minutes without the need for a human to intervene in the process.

Westwell’s autonomous vehicles are widely used in ports. Credit: Jasmine Zheng/TechNode

According to Westwell, the Q-Truck has a load capacity of 80 tons and a battery life of 200 kilometers. What’s more, the fleet system is able to manage multiple unmanned trucks at the same time, achieving mixed operation between driverless and manned vehicles due to the integration of digital systems.

5. HiScene’s industrial AR glasses and software 

As one of the leading industrial AR companies in China, HiScene presented its AR glasses HiAR H100, AR remote communication and collaboration platform HiLeia, and AR real-time spatial editor PinNotes at WAIC this year.

The majority of HiScene’s user cases are in factories and various manufacturing industries. Helping technicians to do more accurate remote inspections and other remote duties. 

HiScene’s staff showcases its AR glass and software. Credit: Jasmine Zheng/TechNode

With PinNotes, users can directly add associated virtual content to reference objects in the physical world via AR glasses or cellphones, which will then be saved to the AR platform and can be read out for re-editing and viewing, bringing users an experience of spatial interconnection, virtual-real integration and intelligent interaction.

Cheyenne Dong

Cheyenne Dong

Cheyenne Dong is a tech reporter now based in Shanghai. She covers e-commerce and retail, blockchain, and Web3. Connect with her via e-mail: cheyenne.dong[a]technode.com.

Jasmine Zheng

Jasmine Zheng

Jasmine Zheng is a reporter for TechNode China. She covers financial technology, health technology, and e-commerce.