December 30, 2016      

The 2017 Consumer Electronic Show (CES) is a prime venue to observe the future of artificial intelligence, and companies from around the world — particularly Asian AI companies — are looking to tap this conference for exactly this reason.

In the coming year, investments in AI and machine learning will increase by 300 percent, according to Forrester Research Inc. Fueling this spending spree are advances that show just how fast AI and related technologies are integrating into our daily lives.

In Beijing, Baidu Inc. and American fast-food chain KFC Corp. have launched a “smart outlet” that analyzes customers’ appearance, recalls past orders, and proposes food options.

In Europe, Greek and British scientists have created an algorithm that can predict the outcomes of European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) rulings with an 80 percent accuracy.

In the U.S., Bridgewater Associates LP, the world’s largest hedge fund, has established an AI team to automate many roles and tasks, including hiring and strategy decisions.

Business Takeaways:

  • At CES 2017, Asian AI companies will be prominent in showing off new advances in artificial intelligence.
  • Many of these AI advances stem from new corporate strategies and investments, which will be an indicator of just how well they are translating into real and useable advances.
  • Although many companies are using the frame of “mobility” or “connectivity” to describe their innovations, robotics and AI are increasingly driving many of these products.

Chinese companies plan to put Asian AI everywhere

Huawei Technologies Co., the world’s largest telecommunications equipment manufacturer, will be demonstrating new products in Las Vegas next week. The CEO of Huawei’s Consumer Business Group will also talk about the company’s future, with a specific focus on AI.

This is important for Asian AI because the Shenzhen-based company recently unveiled plans for a “Superphone” that would combine sensors and intelligence. Huawei wants these phones to be “doubles” of their owners. Instead of waiting for a person to interact with it, the phone could autonomously interact with the world around it.

In addition, Beijing-based Xiaomi Inc. has said it will unveil a new “global product” at CES 2017. While few details are available, one hint could be in comments that Wong Kong Kat, Xiaomi co-founder and vice president, made in April.

“Our artificial intelligence technology will be everywhere,” he said. Will CES be the first look at this vision of ubiquitous AI?

Japan’s Honda develops an ’emotion engine’

Asian AI at CES includes Honda's NeuV concept car.

Honda’s NeuV concept vehicle is part of its “cooperative mobility” approach.

Honda Motor Co. will be promoting its work on urban mobility, robotics, and artificial intelligence at CES 2017. The company will be showcasing a new concept called “cooperative mobility.” This includes its NeuV concept vehicle, a self-driving car that has what Honda calls an “emotion engine.” This AI engine is designed to create a stronger connection between the driver and vehicle.

While most of Honda’s previews of CES are focused on transportation, don’t forget that it is the same company behind Asimo and that in October, Honda took the surprising step by selecting Tokyo over Silicon Valley as the location for its AI research center.

This choice may reflect Honda’s decision to focus largely on the Asia-Pacific region in the future, so many of its concepts displayed at CES 2017 could be geared toward the Asian AI, robotics, and vehicle markets.

Of course, Honda isn’t the only Japanese manufacturer eyeing AI and service robots. Toyota, which will also be at CES, is investing $1 billion in research and development for autonomous vehicles and robotics.

South Korea develops its AI ecosystem

South Korean industry leaders LG Electronics Inc. and Samsung Electronics Co. both plan to show off AI-equipped home appliances at next week’s conference.

Asian AI applications include LG's SmartThinQ.

LG’s SmartThinQ is intended to allow connected appliances to learn.

LG is focused on integrating deep learning technologies into appliances such as air conditions and robotic vacuum cleaners. The Seoul-based company plans to do this with its “SmartThinQ” smart-home platform, allowing appliances to “self-learn.”

In November, Samsung announced an “AI ecosystem” that is essentially a plan to connect its home appliances to an AI-enabled cloud server.

Both LG and Samsung are betting on AI to take them forward. In September, LG announced major investments in robotics, AI, and the Internet of Things (IoT).

CES will be the first look at how these investments have translated into real-world advancements. This will also be an indicator of how innovative South Korea’s AI and robotics developers really are.

In October, Samsung made headlines for developing an advanced AI assistant that is expected to be included in future smartphones. With the recall of the Galaxy Note 7, Samsung is likely betting even more on software, not hardware, to give it an edge.

More on Global Robotics and Asian AI:

First glimpses of Asian AI

With artificial intelligence investments expected to skyrocket, CES 2017 will be the first look at not only what the future of AI looks like, but also how new funding and corporate strategies are translating (or not) into actual commercial products.

And, will such a strong Asian AI presence reflect the region’s future dominance in artificial intelligence?

Editor’s Note: See also our sister publication Robotics TrendsSpotlight on CES 2017, as well as our Robotics Conference and Robotics Marketplace in Las Vegas next week.