Huawei signs AI mobile agreement with Baidu

Huawei and Baidu will work together on developing and building an open AI mobile ecosystem, including devices, technology, internet services, and content.

Huawei has announced signing a strategic agreement to build an open mobile artificial intelligence (AI) ecosystem with Chinese search engine giant Baidu.

The strategic cooperation agreement covers AI platforms, technology, internet services, and content ecosystems, Huawei said.

The open ecosystem will be built using Huawei's HiAI platform and neural network processing unit (NPU); and Baidu's PaddlePaddle deep-learning framework and Baidu Brain, which contains Baidu's AI services and assets. It will allow AI developers to make use of the technology.

Under the partnership, Baidu and Huawei will also work on improved voice and image recognition on smart devices, and will built a consumer augmented reality (AR) software and hardware ecosystem.

Content and internet services being explored by the two companies will "strengthen cooperation in areas such as search and feed to bring consumers a wealth of quality content with a more intuitive and convenient service experience", Huawei added.

"The future is all about smart devices that will actively serve us, not just respond to what we tell them to do," said Huawei Consumer Business Group CEO Richard Yu.

"With a strong background in R&D, Huawei will work with Baidu to accelerate innovation in the industry, develop the next generation of smartphones, and provide global consumers with AI that knows you better."

Baidu CEO Robin Li said the search giant is "dedicated" to exploring AI, having last week announced the availability of its AMD EPYC-powered AI, big data, and cloud computing (ABC) services.

Also working on developing autonomous driving and autonomous vehicles, Baidu is hoping to utilise Huawei's large customer base for the mobile AI project.

"Interactive technologies including voice, machine vision, and AI will drive the [mobile phone] industry forward. Originally developed to be personal tools, mobile phones will become a natural extension of the human body and AI-powered assistants for consumers," Huawei added.

"Huawei and Baidu will continue to prioritise consumer needs and leverage each other's strengths to form a partnership that benefits everyone."

Huawei head of Consumer Software Engineering and director of Intelligence Engineering Felix Zhang had last month said the addition of AI capabilities to smartphones will bring the next shift in technology, comparing AI to the advent of steam engines in terms of its capacity to fundamentally change people's lives.

Mobile AI will change two key aspects of the smartphone, he said: User-machine interaction, and "context-personalised openness".

The first aspect will improve efficiencies between the user and their phone across text, voice, image, video, and sensors, while the second will actively provide services and aggregated information across apps, content, third-party features, and native features, he explained.

"If you look at the whole ecosystem, the AI will fundamentally change the phone from the smartphone to the intelligent phone," Zhang said.

Huawei had unveiled its Kirin 970 chipset with built-in AI in September, at the time calling it the "future of smartphones". Its new mobile AI is made up of a combination of on-device AI and cloud AI.

"Huawei is committed to developing smart devices into intelligent devices by building end-to-end capabilities that support coordinated development of chips, devices, and the cloud," Yu said at the time.

"The ultimate goal is to provide a significantly better user experience. The Kirin 970 is the first in a series of new advances that will bring powerful AI features to our devices and take them beyond the competition."

Limitations in cloud AI necessitated improvements across latency, stability, and privacy, Huawei said, with on-device AI providing this as well as adding sensor data to the offering.

Its new flagship smartphones, the Mate 10 and Mate 10 Pro, come kitted out with the AI-focused Kirin processor, which has the dedicated NPU that is able to process 2,000 images per minute via image-recognition technology.

Huawei additionally provided the Kirin 970 as an open platform for mobile AI developers and partners in order to drive further developments.

This followed Huawei saying in August that AI would play a critical role in driving its smartphone innovation, with the tech giant predicting the advent of the "superphone" two years ago, saying it would be developed by 2020 and take advantage of advancements in AI, big data, and cloud computing.

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