Baidu's investments in artificial intelligence (AI), demonstrated Wednesday in a series of announcements, range from an acquisition and partnerships to its self-driving car.
The AI announcements from Baidu’s developer event in Beijing include the acquisition of Seattle-based Kitt.ai. The chatbot developer platform relies on natural language processing and a focus on "the flow" of the chat rather than on the code, so the complete conversation can occur in one app.
During the past two years, startup Kitt.ai has developed three products: a customizable hotword detection engine, a multilingual natural-language understanding engine, and a multi-turn conversation engine.
It's not clear whether Kitt.ai will remain a stand-alone company, but in a blog post founder Xuchen Yao wrote that nothing will change in its existing products and brands. "KITT.AI will continue to operate with its existing products in the years to come," he wrote.
Baidu, China's popular internet search engine, also wants to embed its technology in mapping and artificial intelligence in autonomous driving vehicles by 2020. At its AI conference, Baidu announced that developers can now begin downloading source code for its open platform Apollo, per one report.
Apollo works in a similar way to Google's open-source Android platform.
Two cars were available for test drives. Both run on Baidu's Apollo software, which supported the interface for the Lincoln sedan to take a programmed route.
Reports suggest that Baidu President Qi Lu, an AI expert who came to the company via Microsoft, said the self-driving vehicle platform now has partnerships with more than 50 companies such as chip maker Nvidia, as well as TomTom, Intel, Microsoft, and Ford.
In another partnership, Baidu and Conexant have announced a partnership to provide reference designs for AI-enabled devices.
Baidu partnered with Conexant, which provides audio and voice technology in development kits and reference designs, to build voice-enabled AI devices, to help developers bring conversational AI devices to market. The technology enables speech recognition and voice control, canceling out echoes and background noise.