Japan lags behind in AI development in Asia Pacific: report

Japan lags behind in AI development in Asia Pacific: report
While Japan has been a leader in robotics, its foray into AI has been somewhat delayed, according to the “Artificial Intelligence in Asia Pacific” report released by Tractica.
 
Despite the fact Japan has one of the largest R&D budget in the world (at US$165 billion annually), after the U.S. and China, only less than 1% of the budget (US$0.5 to US$1 billion) is allocated to AI development.
 
The private sector has been more ambitious. SoftBank, Toyota, Hitachi and Takeda Pharmaceutical are major players in the field, with healthcare, manufacturing and finance as the focus area of AI application.
 
SoftBank is a major investor in AI. The US$100 billion SoftBank Vision Fund has supported firms, including Petuum, NVIDIA, ARM, Lemonade, Nauto and Uber, that are putting AI to use. SoftBank is also overseeing a US$1 billion investment in Chinese video surveillance company SenseTime, according to Tractica.
 
We are expected to see Japan’s latest AI innovation in two years. “The Tokyo 2020 Olympics will provide an opportunity for Japan to showcase it AI development in the area of autonomous shuttles and live language translation devices,” Tractica says.

South Korea is more ambitious

 
South Korea was taken by surprise in 2016 when the nation’s top Go board game player Lee Sedol was defeated by AI program AlphGo developed by Google DeepMind. The South Korean government has since announced a series of plans to increase the country’s AI competitiveness, to train 5,000 AI specialists by 2022 and fund national projects in defense, healthcare and public safety, with US$2 billion allocated for AI development over the next decade.
 
South Korea already has a strong presence in the electronics and IT sectors. The country allegedly has one of the highest robot densities in the world. South Korea also has an advanced telecom market, with 5G deployment expected to be rolled out nationwide in 2019. Home electronics brands Samsung and LG, automakers Hyundai and Kia and local Internet search company Naver are expected to lead AI research and development in the country.

Singapore focuses on autonomous vehicle

 
Singapore is also taking the development of AI seriously, with the government pledging US$150 million in funding. “Singapore is also one of the few countries that is putting AI and ethics at the top of its agenda,” Tractica says.
 
According to a recent KPMG report, Singapore is one the top destinations for autonomous vehicle development. Massachusetts Institute of Technology spin-off technology startup Nutonomy has been offering driverless services in Singapore on a geofenced trial basis since 2016.

China to take the lead

 
The Asia Pacific region’s AI development, at the end of the day, will be dominated by China, which is forecast by Tractica to become the world’s AI bellwether in 10 years. Besides the grand plan launched by the government to speed up AI development, local tech giants like Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent are collectively driving adoption to apply AI in their products and services.
 
“Chinese AI startups, including SenseTime, Megvii, iCarbonX and Ant Financial, have raised some of the largest multi-billion-dollar rounds of funding globally,” says Tractica’s report. “Semiconductor companies like Cambricon, Horizon Robotics, Kneron and HiSilicon (Huawei) are part of the Chinese push for homegrown AI hardware, with a focus on AI edge applications. Also, Baidu and Alibaba are developing their own AI chipsets, both for cloud and edge applications.”
 
iFlyTek is another speech recognition and computer vision provider chosen by the Chinese government and asked, along with Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent, to lead the development of a national AI innovation platform for self-driving cars, smart cities, medical vision diagnosis and voice and speech recognition, Tractica points out.


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