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Tech Thursday Episode 48

Bill Gates becomes Beijing’s “toilet techie,” Didi gets new video surveillance, aviation technology astounds, and a Baidu smart park, and robot news anchor

On 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.

Air Fair’s Wares 

Boeing suggested in September that Chinese companies would purchase $1.2 trillion worth of its new aircrafts by 2037. There might be one hitch in that plan: China is actively building its own widebody jet to compete with the Boeing-Airbus duopoly. A life-size model unveiled at last week’s Airshow China in Zhuhai showed that the Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China might be further along than previously expected, with its maiden flight expected in 2023.

Other highlights from the Zhuhai Airshow included a new Caihong (Rainbow) 7 unmanned combat aerial vehicle and the Golden Eagle anti-tank drone. During a fly-by, in honor of the air force’s 69th anniversary, spectators witnessed another rare treat: the stealth fighter J-20s opened their bay doors to reveal that they could launch missiles.

Bill Gates, Toilet Techie

In less high-tech news, Bill Gates went to Beijing to give a speech at his foundation’s “Reinvented Toilet Expo” last week—presumably because China is a ready audience, as it embarks on its own long march towards a “Toilet Revolution.” Gates called on companies to ideate safe sanitation solutions for over 4.5 billion people without proper sewage treatment. At the expo, companies showcased innovative toilets with solar roofs and recycled water, while Gates pledged to donate $200 million towards new solutions. But perhaps the most memorable (and headline-grabbing) happening was when the former Microsoft chief walked onstage to give his speech, holding a jar of human feces.

Didi’s Safety Surveillance

On November 7th, carpooling app Didi announced new trial updates to their safety features, including in-car video surveillance (previous updates in September allowed for in-car audio surveillance, following a public outcry after the murders of two women by their Didi drivers.)

Safety? (Weibo)

The announcement promised that Didi will “protect the privacy of passengers and drivers through encryption protection technology in accordance with relevant laws and regulations.” Regardless, the topic has caused quite a stir among netizens on Weibo, where one of the top comments suggests it “cures the symptom but not the root of the problem”.

Netizens wonder if new video surveillance will make Didi riding safer (Weibo)

Buses, TV Anchors, and Walkways… AI! 

China has its sights set high: dominating artificial intelligence (AI) technology before 2030. In line with the Made in China’ 2025 plan to boost the tech sector, Tsinghua University recently inaugurated an AI research center, and Peking University now aims to follow suit with an AI campus (the size of 98 football fields) in Beijing’s Changping District.

Last week. a lifelike AI news anchor, developed by Xinhua News Agency and Sogou, debuted in Shanghai. Earlier this month, internet company Baidu launched self-driving buses in Beijing’s Haidian AI park. The Haidian AI park is also home to robots that can make casual conversation with passersby and ‘smart walkways’ that measure pedestrians’ walking distance and calories burnt.

Baidu’s Apollo buses are designed to fit seven people, and drive at a maximum speed of around 1o km/h. Although self-driving, the buses do have safety personnel on board in case of emergencies. In July, Baidu announced that 100 had been built, and would be distributed throughout Chinese cities, as well as Tokyo.


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