WAIC 2020: Global AI collaboration to fight pandemic

Due to Covid-19, the World Artificial Intelligence Conference (WAIC) 2020 in Shanghai from July 09 - 11 adopted a hybrid model where offline exhibitions and online displays took place simultaneously to showcase the latest artificial intelligence (AI) applications and frontier development.
July 12, 2020 | 07:04
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A staff member, wearing a face mask following the Covid-19 outbreak, is looking at a robot at the venue for the World Artificial Intelligence Conference (WAIC) in Shanghai, China. Prompted by the need to contain Covid-19, the world is now looking toward AI-based techniques to aid the anti-pandemic fight. Photo: Reuters

More than 500 AI experts and executives, including Nobel laureates and Turing Award winners, attended this year's WAIC held from Thursday to Saturday with the theme of "Intelligent Connectivity, Indivisible Community", reported Xinhua.

AI has already demonstrated its potential to transform societies, economies, and industries; however, this is just the beginning, according to experts at the conference. WAIC plays a critical role in bringing people together to learn from one another and identify ways of collaborating to achieve more.


In recent years, AI has begun to play a significant role in many sectors. Prompted by the need to contain Covid-19, people around the world are looking toward AI-based techniques to aid the anti-pandemic fight.

According to Xinhua, companies such as Baidu, Alibaba, Tencent, SenseTime and iFlytek have been among the first to join the fight. Data modelling, crowd screening, and tracing contacts of confirmed Covid-19 cases have been widely used to help control the spread of the coronavirus.

SenseTime, an AI-technology firm with its China headquarters and Global R&D headquarters in Shanghai that specializes in computer vision and deep learning, participated in this year's event.

During the outbreak of Covid-19, SenseTime collaborated with several hospitals and medical institutions across China to assist COVID-19 diagnoses. The company upgraded its diagnosis application, which dramatically improved the effectiveness, accuracy, and speed of the current analysis of CT scans with the help of AI algorithms.

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A staff member operates an AI self-service machine developed by SenseTime in Shanghai, China, May 8, 2020. Photo: Xinhua/Teng Jiani

Screening large crowds is another area where AI shows its potential, particularly in public spaces such as the metro. AI firm Megvii, another exhibitor at WAIC, launched a remote temperature measurement system in subway stations in Beijing to help screen out passengers with a high fever. Compared with manual detection, the system can examine up to 300 people in one minute without disrupting passenger flows.

Shen Xiangyang, a professor from Tsinghua University, said during the conference that AI technology could play a significant role in remote diagnoses, vaccine development, virus analysis and global coordination.

With the widespread application of AI products and technologies in the battle against the epidemic, Li Yong, director general of the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation, said that the technological innovation of AI should go beyond national boundaries to avoid widening the technological gap between developed and developing countries.

AI is also changing the way of scientific research and pharmaceutical manufacturers in the healthcare sector.

"Health systems face incredible challenges due to aging populations, increased patient expectations, and the growing prevalence of chronic conditions. Covid-19 has only intensified those challenges," said Pascal Soriot, executive director and CEO of AstraZeneca. "If AI is to play its full part in overcoming them, I believe we need to embrace the opportunity, collaborate, and pursue it together".

Artificial intelligence (AI) facilitates people's daily life during the pandemic. Countries should cement global AI cooperation to fight COVID-19 and revive economies, says AI experts and executives at the World Artificial Intelligence Conference. Video: Xinhua

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The WAIC will fully showcase the globalizing trend of AI technology applied in various kinds of scenarios. Photo: Shutterstock/Willyam Bradberry
The World Artificial Intelligence Conference (WAIC) opened on Thursday in Shanghai, with over 500 companies and agencies participating in the event on the theme of "Intelligent World, Indivisible Community". The WAIC fully showcased the globalizing trend of AI technology applied in various kinds of scenarios, Shanghai Securities News reported.

The conference covered a wide range of exhibitors from home and abroad, including tech giants, such as Microsoft, Amazon, Alibaba, Tencent, Huawei and JD, leading auto manufacturer SAIC, three telecom operators in China and AI unicorn companies like SenseTime and Cloudwalk.

The conference paid high attention to AI chips innovation, 5G, intelligent management of data, AI applications in law enforcement, financing, unmanned driving, education, healthcare, and blockchain, among other topics.

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Elon Musk delivers virtual speech for WAIC. Photo: SHINE/Wang Haoling
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Tony Nguyen
Xinhua, The Star, New China TV
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