When Hongzhi Gao was young, he lived with his family in Gansu, a province located in the center of northern China by the Tengger Desert. Thinking back to his childhood, he recalls the constant, steady wind of dirt outside their house, and that during most months of the year it didn’t take more than a minute after stepping outside before sand would fill any empty space and creep into his pockets, boots, and his mouth. The monotony of the desert stuck in his head for years, and at university he turned that memory into an idea to build a machine that can bring plant life to the desert landscape.

Efforts to stop desertification—the process by which fertile land becomes desert—have been primarily focused on expensive manual solutions. Hongzhi designed a robot with deep learning technology to automate the process of tree planting: from identifying optimal spots to planting tree seedlings to watering. Despite having no experience with AI, as an undergraduate student Hongzhi used Baidu’s deep learning platform PaddlePaddle to stitch together different modules to build a robot with better object detection capability than similar machines already available in the market. It took less than one year for Hongzhi and his friends to spin up the final product and put it to work.

Hongzhi’s desert robot serves as a telling example of the increasing accessibility of artificial intelligence.

Today, more than four million developers are using Baidu’s open source AI technology to build solutions that can improve the lives of people in their communities, and many of them have little to no technical expertise in the field. “Within the next decade, AI will be the source of changes taking place across every fabric of our society, transforming how industries and businesses operate. The technology will expand the human experience by taking us on a deeper dive into the digital world,” said Baidu CEO Robin Li at Baidu Create 2021, an AI developer conference.

As we enter a new chapter in the evolution of AI, Haifeng Wang, CTO of Baidu, identified two key trends that underpin the industry’s path forward: AI will continue to mature and increase its technical complexity. And at the same time, the cost of deployment and barrier to entry will decrease—benefiting both enterprises building AI-powered solutions at scale and software developers exploring the world of AI.

Merging of knowledge and data with deep learning

The integration of knowledge and data with deep learning has significantly improved the efficiency and accuracy of AI models. Since 2011, Baidu’s AI infrastructure has been acquiring and integrating new information into a large-scale knowledge graph. Currently, this knowledge graph has more than 550 billion facts, covering all aspects of everyday life, as well as industry-specific topics, including manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, law, financial services, technology, and media and entertainment.

This knowledge graph and the massive data points together make up the building blocks of Baidu’s newly released pre-trained language model PCL-BAIDU Wenxin (version ERINIE 3.0 Titan). The model outperforms other language models without knowledge graphs on 60 natural language processing (NLP) tasks, including reading comprehension, text classification, and semantic similarity.

Learnings across modalities

Cross-modal learning is a new area of AI research that seeks to improve machines’ cognitive understanding and to better mimic the adaptive behavior of humans. Examples of research efforts in this area include automatic text-to-image synthesis, where a model is trained to generate images from text descriptions alone, as well as algorithms built to understand visual content and express that understanding with words. The challenge with these tasks is for the machines to build semantic connections across different types of datasets (e.g., images, text) and understand the interdependencies between them.

The next step for AI is merging AI technologies like computer vision, speech recognition, and natural language processing to create a multi-modal system.

On this front, Baidu has rolled out a variant of its NLP models that ties together language and visual semantic understanding. Examples of real-world applications for this type of model include digital avatars that can perceive their surroundings like human beings

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By: Baidu
Title: A desert robot depicts AI’s vast opportunities
Sourced From: www.technologyreview.com/2021/12/27/1043030/a-desert-robot-depicts-ais-vast-opportunities/
Published Date: Mon, 27 Dec 2021 15:00:00 +0000

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