Jenny Chan 陳詠欣
Jun 21, 2017

Tencent exec questions validity of Baidu's AI-glasses Cannes win

A senior Tencent executive has contested Baidu's Silver Lion in the Pharma category at Cannes, highlighting an AI arms race between the internet rivals.

China's very first Lion this year, awarded on 19 June at Lions Health, was a Silver bagged by F5 Shanghai for its 'Know You Again' work for Baidu.

Baidu, F5, in collaboration with Beijing Benbun Technology, co-created what they call "artificially-intelligent glasses" for Alzheimer’s patients in China. The devices, according to the case description, use facial contour and speech-recognition technology to help patients recognise family members and pets, with a precision rate of 99.77 percent.

Within hours of the win, Thomas Chen (陈濮), general manager and head of marketing at Tencent's Mobile Internet Group, remarked in a Linkedin post that the Cannes Lions Festival is "being fooled" by the project from F5/Baidu. 

He wrote (with screenshot below):

The product is never promoted in China and I seriously doubt if the glasses really exist because I found NO INFORMATION [emphasis by Chen] about the product on Baidu search (it is ironic, I know!) and as far as I konw [sic] the face recognition tech is only applying [sic] to human, not your pet. Sincerely recommend 2017 Cannes Creative Fest reconsider its decision. Sliver [sic] Pharma Lion should go to the next best, real project.

When approached by Campaign China, Adams Fan (笵耀威), F5 chief creative officer, responded to Chen's allegations by saying, "totally nonsense", and added that his team demonstrated the physical product in a live presentation to the Innovation Lions jury.

The product in question is only a prototype that "connects to the deep convolutional neural network via deep learning method and massive data in the Baidu database", according to the convoluted case description on the Cannes Lions site.

The Cannes Lions submission states that the first prototype was ready in March 2017, while the Baidu Baike (China's equivalent of Wikipedia) states the beta version of the glasses was completed in May. The deadline to enter work into the 2017 Cannes Lions Festival was in between these two months, on 20 April.

To Chen's point of contention about face-recognition technology being applicable only to humans and not animals, Fan referred to examples of a Baidu internal engineer contest and research paper proving how its algorithms are able to identify even flowers, dragonflies, cats and common iguanas. Fan also redirected Campaign China to his Baidu client for more technical questions.

The spat perhaps reveals the intensity of a larger arms race in which both Baidu and Tencent have invested heavily into artificial intelligence research. Chen's shot at Baidu, in fact, came just two days before Tencent scored a Gold Lion in the Cyber category for its 'QQ Alert: Hope Never Dies' case, which also makes strong claims and involves AI.

By "deep-learning the transformation pattern of facial features", the QQ Alert system is "able to simulate a person’s appearances years ago from a photo taken today by eliminating the typical facial transformation through time", the company claims. "It means that finding missing kinsfolk through old photos becomes possible", according to the case description, which declared an accuracy rate of 99.8 percent. Campaign China has reached out to Sun Jiaji and Wang Liangliang from Tencent's PR team for further comment.

Suffice to say, this claim is at least as extraordinary as Baidu's, if not more so. It wouldn't be surprising if Baidu, or someone else, asks to see more evidence.

Campaign China

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