Further crackdown on Toutiao, AI translator’s Waterloo, self-driving courier, and Longjing tea delivered by drones
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.
Further Crackdown on Toutiao
After last week’s bitch-slap, Toutiao’s “Neihan Duanzi,” a top-ranking jokes apps with over 20 million active users, was further ordered by the relevant authorites to shut down completely on April 10, because of its “incorrect orientation and lack of taste,” which has apparently been “arous[ing] netizens’ aversion.”
Before it was quashed by the state, Neihan Duanzi featured jokes, comics, shot videos and live-streaming content. Since its shutdown, fans have been expressing their disappointment on Duanzi’s Weibo account, which remains active (for now). “I am a man, but I really want to cry,” commented one user, “I have been reading Duanzi for three years now…thanks to all my ‘Duan’ friends…you guys made me laugh out loud in the most difficult times of my life. Goodbye!”
Toutiao CEO Zhang Yiming has since issued a humbling open letter of apology—to the government: “Our product took the wrong path, content that does not fit with core socialist values appeared, because we didn’t carry through the correct orientation of public opinion. We accept punishment and I take all responsibility.”
AI translator’s Waterloo
The Bo’ao Forum for Asia, China’s answer to Davos, disastrously deployed an AI translator, built by China’s largest tech firm, Tencent, which can purportedly create transcripts and provide simultaneous interpretation. The machine made its debut at a session on “Future Production” on Monday, the first time the forum has employed such a translating device.
Tencent had previously claimed that the accuracy of the AI simultaneous-interpretation averages 97 percent, and about 92 percent of users can understand the translation. Naturally, the machine then proceeded to embarrass everyone in its vicinity, translating the vital “Belt and Road Initiative” as “a road and a waistband,” and rendering various English phrases into meaningless broken Chinese. It’s rumoured that Tencent tried to hire some simultaneous human interpreters to help out; Tencent claims the human interpreters were simply assisting its media group to finish news reporting. The car crash will be some small comfort to those humans who can actually do the work of a machine, and more—AI has a while yet before it will take their jobs.
Self-driving courier braves Beijing
Cainiao, Alibaba’s logistic brand, just released its first open-road test video of self-driving delivery cart—a grayish-yellow box, the size of a shrunken Smart car, battling traffic during evening rush hour. The video shows the cart waiting patiently at traffic lights and responding faster than human drivers when the lights change. Unlike the homicidal scooters around town, the battery-powered cart travels at a very slow and safe speed. Cainiao staff say within this year, the cart will go to massive production.
On a similar note, earlier this month, Cainiao deployed teams of drones to help tea farmers to transport much-cherished first harvests of this year’s Longjing tea from mountain peaks to the process centers down the hill. Normally a journey of 20 minutes to an hour for local female tea-pickers on foot, Cainiao’s drones can finish the trip in two minutes. The use of drones also preserves the freshness of the tea, whose price is comparable to gold. This year’s Dragon Well tea can now hit the market three hours earlier. Chin, chin!