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Shanghai electronics expo showcases China's AI ambitions

Hisense comes out with smarter TVs just in time for World Cup

CES Asia, one of China's biggest electronics expos, opened its doors on Wednesday in Shanghai.

SHANGHAI -- The CES Asia technology show here is emphasizing breakthroughs in artificial intelligence, an area where China is going for global dominance by the end of the next decade.

During the expo's opening day on Wednesday, Hisense held a demonstration of an AI television that features face and voice recognition. When a soccer match is being viewed, the TV will display players' statistics at the push of a button. Information on purchasing uniforms also shows up on the screen.

Hisense, a sponsor of the World Cup in Russia, says AI features will be activated for its latest smart TVs when the games kick off on Thursday. The innovation will provide a new viewing experience thanks to the abundance of data on the screen, said Chairman Zhou Houjian.

Each day, about 12 million Hisense TVs connect to the internet. The Chinese company expects the number to reach 65 million households in 2020. The voluminous data such an audience will generate, such as viewership and search results, will enable even an appliance maker to competently develop advanced AI, said Zhou.

Huawei Technologies, the world's No. 3 smartphone maker, is highlighting AI-powered chips it has developed in-house. The neural network processing units debuted last year on the company's flagship handsets. The AI was trained with more than 100 million images so that it can automatically adjust the phone's camera settings to fit the photo subject. The chip can also optimize the performance of the smartphone by learning which apps are used frequently and dedicating more power to them.

AI is making smartphones evolve, said Kevin Ho, the chief of Huawei's handset business.

China aims to become an AI powerhouse with related industries worth 10 trillion yuan ($1.56 trillion) by 2030. Although China is a latecomer to the field compared with the U.S., Chinese companies are armed with the copious data generated by a customer base of 1.4 billion people, and they also enjoy government support.

At CES Asia, the sister expo to the more prominent International Consumer Electronics Show held in Las Vegas, a fifth of the participating companies are startups. AI and autonomous driving are attracting the bulk of the talent and funding. But concerns remain about the role AI-driven data analysis will play in a vast surveillance state.

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