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Artificial intelligence

Ex-Baidu and Google scientist will work with Foxconn to bring artificial intelligence to factories

Andrew Ng says in talks with iPhone and iPad assembler since July but doesn’t reveal details of tie-up

PUBLISHED : Friday, 15 December, 2017, 6:47pm
UPDATED : Friday, 15 December, 2017, 11:03pm

Andrew Ng, former chief scientist at Baidu and leader of the Google Brain deep-learning project, on Thursday said he will collaborate with Foxconn Technology to introduce artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning in its factories.

Ng, who launched his start-up, Landing.ai, this week, said in a blog post that Foxconn, the world’s largest contract manufacturer of consumer electronics, will be Landing.ai’s first strategic partner. He said his interaction with Foxconn began in July but did not offer any details on how they will cooperate, or which of Foxconn’s customers would be affected.

“Landing.ai will help transform companies for the AI era. We are starting with the manufacturing industry. For the whole world to experience the benefits of AI, it must pervade many industries, not just the IT industry,” said Ng.

“Manufacturing touches nearly every part of our society by shaping our physical environment. It is through manufacturing that human creativity goes beyond pixels on a display to becoming physical objects,” Ng said. “ By bringing AI to manufacturing, we will deliver a digital transformation to the physical world.”

Ng said he understood AI was likely to displace factory workers but that his start-up was working on training workers for higher-skilled factory work involving computers.

Founded in 1974, Foxconn, also known as Hon Hai Precision Industry, has been an assembler of computers for Dell, and assembles iPhones and iPads for Apple.

“Assembly line workers will definitely disappear in the coming 20 years,” Foxconn chairman Terry Gou told the World Internet Conference in Wuzhen, in China’s northern Zhejiang province, this month. His company has about 1.5 million workers globally.

“But I am not concerned about unemployment, and our workers will become smarter and further upgrade their skills to have good interactions with machines.

“I think it is trend to combine internet and manufacturing. And the two will be more and more inseparable,” said Gou. “And in terms of deep learning and artificial intelligence, China now does not fall behind the US.”

This week Google too announced it would open an AI research facility in Beijing. The Google AI China Centre will be supported by “several hundred China-based engineers”, the company said.

China made AI a national priority, with policymakers announcing plans in July to develop an industry that would be a world leader by 2030.

But while China is racing towards global dominance in AI, “many traditional industries outside the AI industry cannot have enough access to AI talent and few understand AI well enough to implement it effectively,” said Ng.

Additional reporting from Bloomberg