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Tech Thursday: Episode 14

AI and wine, China makes its own plane, Unicom goes big data, and WeChat changes the world

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.

China’s first plane takes off

The Y-20 is China’s first domestically designed aircraft (though components are still sourced through foreign companies) and, on its very first formal flight this week, it set records for the number of people carried on a single flight by a domestic aircraft. The passengers weren’t ordinary members of the public, but part of the craft’s “development group” according to the Global Times. The Y-20 is not a civilian passenger plane; it is the world’s largest military transport aircraft.

WeChat’s China-centric world

The loading screen for WeChat shows the Earth, as seen from space, shrouded in cloud cover. Astute observers may have noticed that, in the latest update, the picture was subtly different—instead of showing Africa, China is now in the middle. WeChat has opted for a satellite image from a domestic satellite, showing China in the middle of the globe. It’s caused quite the kerfuffle as people debate what it means, and whether this is a show of national strength.

China Unicom jumps on Big Data bandwagon

Between them, China Mobile and China Unicom control essentially the entire telecommunications market in China—they’re the big hitters. But this apparently isn’t enough for China Unicom. The company is making plans to move beyond providing cellphone coverage alone, and this month established a big data company, entitled, appropriately enough, China Unicom Big Data Co. Ltd. Tech companies like Alibaba and Baidu are already jumping on the investment bandwagon, with experts indicating that China Unicom’s telecommunications infrastructure might be of significant help.

Chinese company introduces AI to French winemaking

Shanghai Hefu Holdings has a chateau in the famous Bordeaux region of France. It’s much like any other chateau, save for one thing – Shanghai Hefu Holdings specializes in AI and robotics, and the company is putting this to use in selecting and planting the perfect grapes, and monitoring the winemaking process.

Tooth tech

Those who fear any visit to the dentist’s chair may have less—or more—to worry about, now that dentists in Xi’an have successfully supervised the mainland’s “first successful autonomous implant surgery, by fitting two new teeth into a woman’s mouth,” reports the SCMP. The robots are required because China lacks qualifies dentists and “suffers frequent surgical errors.” Eek. But robotic assistance could become commonplace, as the US Food and Drug Administration has already approved Yomi, a system to assist human surgeons fitting implants.


Cover image from China Daily


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

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