Sorry Beijing, your next food delivery will have to come by motorbike and not by autonomous drone.
Baidu's project to courier food deliveries by drones, which was launched last year under the name Baidu Takeaway, is now coming back down to earth. The search engine company is scuttling the drone project, and perhaps more related drone projects, according to Chinese media reports.
During last week's China Artificial Intelligence Conference, Lin Yuanqing, senior director at Baidu's deep learning laboratory, said Baidu's advances in AI have been great and they are now separating that research from drone work.
"Unmanned aerial vehicles are indeed a very good project, but we are puzzled with how Baidu can compete with DJI, because we do not produce them. We considered whether unmanned aerial vehicles can automatically draw a map, in particular for places unachievable by people and cars, but we finally concluded that the market value is not that big. Although we now give up the project, our technology can be used in other places, " said Lin.
DJI is the Chinese drone company that is making waves with new consumer-friendly flying devices. DJI has been expanding its product line and also building retail sites outside of China.
With drones dead, but the software and technology behind them still viable, Lin says Baidu is tackling AI in six ways: a deep learning platform, a basic image recognition technology, fine-grained image recognition, video analysis, augmented realty technology and medical image recognition.
"I think there is a rigid demand for artificial intelligence now, which can be expressed as a very strong demand. The key is how to explore and serve the rigid demand," said Lin Yuanqing.
Lin says the Chinese search engine giant's image recognition technology is very mature, with mobile terminal ID recognition accuracy rates reaching 99% or above. For fine-grained image recognition, Lin revealed that Baidu would launch new features for its Nuomi application this September. For example, after receiving pictures of food shot by a user, the application can recommend the best restaurants within 5 kilometers from the user that cook that specialty.
Baidu says its strength lies in its data, so removing hardware projects such as those related to drones, shouldn't impact it much.
For artificial intelligence, the deep learning of machines needs enormous valid data training. During the Baidu World Conference to be held on September 1, Baidu will follow the example of Google, Facebook and other companies, and open a number of artificial intelligence technologies to the public.
"For the artificial intelligence industry, I think we should move forward together. Openness is very important. For example, our optical character recognition technology is certainly the best in the country, if not in the world. After its opening, others can directly add improvements rather than exploring other similar technologies," said Lin.