Good morning. RISE 2018 opened its doors in Hong Kong yesterday to more than 15,000 attendees from 100 countries and markets. Representing many of the world’s most exciting start-ups and largest companies, they are here to make connections, share stories and woo investors and partners. The team has lined up 350 high-calibre speakers and more than 700 leading journalists and bloggers are on site. Here’s a snapshot of what caught our attention on Day One.
Grab to become super-app platform for ‘everyday needs’
Co-founder Tan Hooi Ling announced that Grab is no longer a transport company but an open platform offering multiple services, like payments, logistics and food and grocery delivery, with multiple partners. The Grab app has been downloaded 100 million times and the firm has built the region’s largest offline distribution network (with more than 7.1 million drivers, merchants and agents). It aims to meet the complex everyday challenges of Southeast Asia.
Sophia and friends invite you to say hello to the future
- RISE-favourite Sophia from Hansen Robotics joined her creators David Hanson and Ben Goertzel to show us that robots can be creative. We’ve met Sophia before and seen her debate difficult issues and joke with Ben. She is working on developing self, special and interpersonal intelligence, as well as logical-math and other intelligences. And she can sing, paint and ‘dream’ in her neural net. Hansen Robotics is exploring multiple intelligences with Sophia to work towards general human-level intelligence for robots.
- Multiple Oscar-winning production studio Digital Domain is behind such as iconic film characters as Benjamin Button, Disney’s the Beast, and Marvel’s Thanos, and brought Teresa Teng and Tupac Shakur back to perform as virtual human holograms. CEO Daniel Seah explained that instead of making virtual humans in post-production, using data captured on a special stage with a motion capture suit and headset, it can now create CG characters by capturing the live performance of a digital avatar and rendering it in real time. This takes virtual humans from the film world to the real world for the first time.
- Temi CEO Yossi Wolf invited us to meet Temi, the world’s first personal robot. The ‘ultimate video-audio-AI machine for consumers,’ it allows us to be in two places at once. You can hop into your personal robot from anywhere in the world, controlling it via an intuitive app on your phone as it moves around so you can see and interact with family, friends and colleagues, and they can see you.
Future mobility and elephants in the road
Emissions-free, autonomous when you want it to be, and capable of flying: that’s the future car that Dieter Zetsche, head of Daimler Mercedes-Benz, wants to see. In reality, autonomous cars, now in trials worldwide, are only about two or three years away from availability. They will rely on AI and machine learning to meet the radically different needs and wants of customers in different countries and even in different cities. For instance, an autonomous car driving in Germany may diagnose a fault and shut down if it ‘sees’ an elephant blocking the road, but the same car in India needs to recognize it as just another obstacle.
Is China now the world leader in technology?
Many speakers addressed the potential for China to surge ahead of Silicon Valley in tech innovation and investment. Discussions on stage and around the venue considered how this could impact US-China relations as the trade war heats up.
- Hans Tung, managing partner at GGV Capital, said he expects more unicorns to come from China than the US in coming years, and that these will also surpass their US counterparts in size. He pointed to the multi-faced rivalry between leading tech conglomerates, like Alibaba and Tencent, as a reason for China’s tech rise.
- ClearVue founding partner Harry Hui also talked about the importance of ‘swarm innovation,’ where fierce competition between local players in China is driving rapid data-inspired tech-enabled innovation. Wayne Xu, president of ZhongAn International, agreed: firms are innovating to make their own operations more effective, building new tech platforms from scratch, but these can then be exported as services.
- Withinlink’s founder Bessie Lee argued that China leads in the application of digital innovation to meet market needs today, especially in mobile, social and e-commerce. Looking ahead, Xunlei CEO Lei Chen explained that China’s government is investing in developing frontier technologies, providing an opportunity for China to dominate in blockchain and artificial intelligence in the future.
- The 2018 China Internet Report, released at RISE, reflected many of these insights. It shows that giants Baidu, Tencent and Alibaba are expanding into every corner of the economy, from retail to fintech, and into rural areas, with a Social+ business model.
Hong Kong to grow Greater Bay Area as engine for economic growth
In a conversation with CNBC’s Bernie Lo, Carrie Lam, Hong Kong’s chief executive, said government’s role is to provide leadership to enable innovation and technology development: this includes capital but also things like supportive immigration and education policies. She cited Hong Kong’s new-tech friendly stock market listing rules and new cross-boundary rail and road infrastructure as examples of such action.
Voice is the key for future digital systems
Closing the day with a much-anticipated speech, Amazon CTO Werner Vogels made the case that voice represents the next major disruption in computing. He debunked the myth that smartphones can bring the internet to everyone in developing nations: to overcome illiteracy, changing from machine-centric to human-centric interfaces is vital. Voice-driven Alexa is already changing people’s lives, with special benefits for the blind and those with dementia.
Join us for the RISE Day Two snapshot tomorrow, when we delve even deeper into how AI is being used in different industries and hear some fascinating stories from those who have built some of today’s most exciting businesses.