Photo Credit:

Tech Thursday: Episode 9

The chatbot poet, bitcoin seeks cheap power, robo-conference, sex-slave emojis and shared BMWs: It’s Tech Thursday

Each Thursday, The World of Chinese takes the most ground-breaking, impressive, or just plain weird technological advancements related to the Middle Kingdom and serves them in bite-sized chunks to keep you up-to-date on the latest news in the world of Chinese technology.

World Robotics Conference kicks off in Beijing

Vice Premier Liu Yandong was on hand to give the keynote speech today, opening the World Robotics Conference which will extend over the weekend. China has been making massive strides in both automation and AI development, including an ambitious plan that was released in July, which involves creating a trillion-yuan core robotics industry. China is already the world’s largest market for robotics technology.

Shared BMWs

Are shared bikes already passé? If you’re a resident of Shenyang, Liaoning province, where you can rent a series-1 BMW Sedan for as little as US $30 per day (though there is a $150 deposit and it’s $0.25 per kilometer), the answer may be yes. It’s a first for China, though a number of American cities have variations on luxury car-rental apps.

Launched just over a month ago, the company, Hongyang Shared Cars, is already facing its first controversy— a video purporting to show people zooming around recklessly in one. The owner of the company, Sui Hongyang, has denied that it’s theirs.

Sex slave emojis

Tencent has banned a series of emojis linked with Twenty Two, a recent documentary about China’s surviving WW2 sex slaves. Tencent’s instant messaging service QQ allows third-party developers to create emojis and these ones were sure to draw controversy.

Although the documentary itself focuses on the lives of the surviving ‘comfort women’ today, rather than the historical circumstances under which they were enslaved, TenCent realized using the topic as a subject for emojis was less than appropriate.

Bitcoin goes legit?

TechinAsia has an interesting analysis of why Bitcoin companies in China are partnering with authorities. Essentially, by giving up a proportion of their profits in taxes, they get a degree of assurance of continued operations, as well as cheaper electricity prices (Bitcoin mining requires a lot of electricity for servers).

China is currently dominating Bitcoin mining and trades. There are still a lot of regulatory questions over Bitcoin, as well as the use of surplus electricity, however.

Of course there’s considerable irony in all this, given that Bitcoin was originally intended to be a currency that couldn’t be tracked and intended to render state-led currencies redundant.

Li Bot

Microsoft’s Weibo chatbot Little Ice has become a poet, though it is by no means poised to replace Li Bai in the nation’s affections.

Little Ice, or Xiao Bing, has been in the news for a few years now and is often contrasted favorably against Microsoft’s Twitter chatbot Tay (within 24 hours of Tay’s unveiling last year, it had been transformed into a foul-mouthed racist by Twitter users).

In contrast to Tay’s descent into the gutter, Little Ice has made headlines for its poetry. Recent effort “A Whole World Out There” has made significant strides compared to a collection released in May. The bot reportedly studied 500 influential, ranging from the 1920s to today, and used those styles to write one of its own. Take a look at TWOC’s translation of the poem below, but don’t expect anything as controversial as the recent comments by a chatbot that criticized the Communist Party.


《全世界就在那里》  A Whole World Out There
河水上滑过一对对盾牌和长矛    Pairs of spears and shields gliding across the river of ice

她不再相信这是人们的天堂      She no longer believes here is human’s paradise

眼看着太阳落了下去            Witnessing the sunset in front of eyes

这时候不必再有爱的诗句        No need for any more love verses.

全世界就在那里               A whole world is just out there

早已拉下了离别的帷幕        The curtain of farewell has been brought down

生命的颜色                  The palette of life

你双颊上的道理              The truth on your cheeks

是人们的爱情                Is people’s love as its

撒向天空的一个星            It’s a star sprayed into the sky

变幻出生命的颜色            That transformed into colors of life

我跟着人们跳跃的心          I am following people’s heartbeats

太阳也不必再为我迟疑        And the sun no longer needs to hesitate for me

记录着生命的凭证            Recording the proof of life

像飞在天空没有羁绊的云      Like the unfettered cloud in the sky

冰雪后的水                  Water after snow and ice

那霜雪铺展出的道路          Roads covered by snow and frog

是你的声音啊                Are your voice.

雪花中的一点颜色            The color among the snowflakes

是开启我生命的象征          Are symbols of my life

我的心儿像冰雪后的水        My heart is just like the melted ice and snow

一滴一滴翻到最后            One drop after another, till the end

给我生命的上帝              The god, who bestowed me life

把它吹到缥缈的长空          Blows it to the ethereal vast sky

Header picture via Xinhua shows students debugging robots during the World Robotics Conference in Beijing.


David Dawson is the former deputy editor of The World of Chinese.

Related Articles