March 29, 2016

Baidu using AI to turn large amounts of data into huge amounts of value

Baidu's FaceYou app lets you add all sorts of spooky effects or animal characteristics to a digital image of your face.



Face You makes use of an AI technique called deep learning to automatically identify key points on a person’s face, so that software can then position and stretch a virtual mask with amazing accuracy.

Deep learning is driving a lot more than just goofy apps at Baidu, though. It is making existing products smarter and helping the company’s engineers dream up many entirely new ideas.

Baidu is China’s most successful Internet business: over 92 percent of the country’s more than 536 million Internet search users employ its portal services and mobile apps. And it continues to grow. In the past year it has moved into new areas, including music streaming, insurance, and banking.



Baidu's AI team created deep-learning platform called Paddle that engineers in other departments could use. And researchers from the institute are often embedded within other departments. As a result, deep learning has been used to improve Baidu’s antivirus filters and to predict when a hard drive in one of the company’s giant server farms will fail, among other things.



AI, in the form of deep learning, has already helped improve key Baidu products, including the core search algorithm, by making image search far more accurate. And it has increased the accuracy of the company’s voice recognition engine, which enables voice search as well as a relatively new voice-controlled personal assistant called DuEr. Speech technology could be especially important to Baidu’s future in China, as it offers a more elegant way of using a mobile device than entering Chinese characters on a tiny screen.

“Any company with a lot of data should seriously consider deep learning,” Ng says. “It is a superpower that turns huge amounts of data into huge amounts of value.”

SOURCES - Baidu Research, MIT Technology Review

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