Every year as the calendar turns from February to March, the world’s leading electronics and telecommunications companies, startups, inventors, and a herd of tech journalists and analysts head to the Mobile World Congress. MWC 2019 kicked off February 25 in Barcelona, Spain, and the leading congress of its type has already produced a plethora of news and products built on AI and robotics.
Here are Synced’s picks.
Google Assistant is coming to the Android texting app
Google did not roll out any new hardware devices or software upgrades, but provided a peek into its future smart mobile strategy with the announcement that Google Assistant will soon be added to the Android texting app Messages.
Google Assistant will be able to automatically recognize the context of a text message and integrate relevant suggestions into the conversation. A Googler demonstrated how for example a text reading “Let’s get dinner before the movie” could prompt Assistant to display pop-up recommendations for “restaurants nearby,” etc. A CNET reporter praised the new text experience: “What I like about this is how natural it is, and how it saved time looking up information individually.”
Google is also bringing Assistant to other mobile apps, and drivers can now use Assistant in Google Maps for smart navigation. At CES 2019 in January, Google introduced a preview of Google Assistant Connect, a platform that enables device manufacturers to easily pack Assistant into their products.
Microsoft introduces AI cameras
Microsoft aroused developers’ interest at MWC with the introduction of its Azure Kinect Developer Kit, a US$399 AI camera with built-in time-of-flight depth sensor, 7-microphone array, 12-megapixel RGB camera, and 1-megapixel depth camera. Azure Corporate Vice President for Marketing Julia White told CNBC that Azure Kinect is a “new intelligent edge device that enables developers to create a wide range of AI-powered experiences.”
The Kinect brand was first introduced in 2010 as a line of motion-sensing input devices in Xbox game consoles and Microsoft PCs. Kinect system production was however halted in 2017, and there were no further updates until last year when Microsoft reportedly began integrating Kinect devices with Azure Cloud.
With Kinect’s established sensing capabilities and Microsoft’s self-developed deep learning algorithms, the Azure Kinect camera is expected to find applications in a variety enterprise solutions, such as self-checkout in smart retail or patient monitoring in smart hospitals.
The developer kit is now available for pre-order.
Oral-B introduces AI toothbrush
The world’s leading household products maker Procter & Gamble is also keen to reinvent its products with AI, and at MWC unveiled it new Oral-B Genius X Toothbrush, which recognizes users’ brushing behaviours and provides personalized feedback to improve oral health. The Genius X Toothbrush is trained on thousands of human brushing behaviors. Its built-in AI algorithms track users’ brushing behaviors and coach them on optimal brushing techniques.
Genius X Toothbrush will be available for purchase in September 2019.
Qualcomm debuts first AI & 5G robotic platform
Mobile chip giant Qualcomm revealed an ambitious new robotics blueprint based on the Qualcomm Robotics RB3 platform. The company’s first fully integrated robotics platform is designed to empower advanced consumer, enterprise and industrial robotics products.
RB3 is built on the Qualcomm 845 system-on-chip (SoC) and includes key capabilities such as high-performance heterogeneous computing, 4G/LTE connectivity, AI processing abilities, hi-fidelity sensing, odometry for localization, mapping, and navigation, vault-like security, and Wi-Fi connectivity.
Qualcomm also pledged 5G connectivity support for late 2019, gaining an advantage over its competitors in the robotics industry. This indicates that in the near future, robots will not only be able to execute AI tasks but will be able to do so more efficiently thanks to the faster data transfer and communication enabled by 5G network connectivity.
Softbank-backed firm introduces HUMANOID roBOT XR-1
Japanese mobile pioneer SoftBank continues spearheading future robotics with huge investments in humanoid consumer robots. Its first companion robot “Pepper” was introduced in 2015 and can communicate with humans through voice, touch, and by detecting emotions. SoftBank has already sold over 12,000 Pepper robots.
The early success of Pepper boosted consumer expectations for SoftBank’s next-generation androids. At MWC, the SoftBank-backed Chinese AI and robotics solution developer CloudMinds unveiled its AI-based robot, XR-1.
The XR-1’s selling points include flexible arm joints powered by Smart Compliant Actuators (SCAs) technology and a comprehensive intelligent system that integrates AI capabilities such as vision processing, natural language processing, robotic motion control, vision-guided grasping and manipulation.
In its MWC 2019 demo the XR-1 delivered coffees and aced a demanding needle-threading task.
Telecoms seek AI transformation
Telecom companies are embracing automation and data-driven analysis as the industry moves into 5G and IoT.
At MWC Nokia launched Cognitive Collaboration Hubs, a network system designed to address key challenges such as improving network performance, automating operations, enhancing subscriber experience and exploring new revenue streams. The company believes C-Hubs can facilitate the co-creation of innovative, tailored cognitive use cases and solutions by bringing together the right people, technologies and processes and leveraging data science expertise.
C-Hubs use cases include improving road safety using AI powered driver analytics. Nokia also launched a Driver Behavior Analytics program to provide road and driver insights to the automotive and insurance industries, city councils and transport authorities.
Ericsson, the world’s third-largest telecommunication equipment maker, introduced its Ericsson Operations Engine at MWC. The engine aims to accelerate rollout of network services and better manage growing network complexity.
Journalist: Tony Peng | Editor: Michael Sarazen