Humanoids and robot dogs - how China plans to dominate the AI industry

China has become a major player in AI, from commercial use to military grade systems, the country has solidified its status as a world leader, ITV News' Debi Edward and Martin Stew report

The pace of Artificial Intelligence (AI) development is so fast here, that it could be in China where we find out whether machines will take over from man.

The Chinese Communist Party has set the target of being the world number one in AI by 2030.

It is pouring billions into research and development and there are thousands of companies working towards the aim of global dominance in the field.

The three pillars of AI are computer power, algorithms and data. It is the third pillar in which China could have the key to its success.

Chinese companies are creating humanoids, life-like Madam Tussaud’s characters.

With more smartphone users than anywhere else in the world and a sophisticated system of mass surveillance, the country’s technology industry has access to an almost unlimited supply of data.

In our daily lives in Beijing, we are using our phones to pay for everything, to make calls, send messages, browse online, do our shopping and moving around the city we are constantly tracked by a huge network of surveillance cameras on the streets and buildings.

That daily data stream is being fed into the ever-expanding workforce dedicated to developing AI giving them a major advantage as they seek to overtake the United States.

But data is nothing without expertise in how to use it, and in the case of AI, the talent and know-how to write algorithms and create computer software and hardware.

In recent years China has not only boosted its domestic talent pool, but it has also sought to bring back nationals who went to study and work abroad, mostly in America.

ITV News' Debi Edward visited the site where the humanoids are being created.

We met one such man, Li Boyang, who started a tech enterprise in his hometown of Dalian.

It is an exciting place to be for a CEO like him, with the government investing heavily in the industry and AI a stated priority in the CCP’s national five-year plan.

His company EX Robots is creating humanoids, life-like Madam Tussaud’s characters that can move and speak.

The aim is to make them as capable as humans and deploy them in the service sector.

He believes China’s market is the most open and active AI market in the world because it is where there are most application scenarios (and the most data).

China has advanced its resources to compete with the US in the race to lead the AI industry.

Businesses are being encouraged to think about AI solutions in all sectors.

The engineers in his research and development lab are working to bring humanoid robots to the next level where they can not only speak and move, but they can think, feel, act and even make decisions for themselves.

With the help of ChatGPT technology they are already answering questions and having conversations.

Whichever country gets the commercial edge in AI, will gain military superiority too.

Dual use of the tech, and robots trained for armed conflict, have given rise to some of the security concerns which will be discussed at the Bletchley Park AI summit.

AI is already used in military robot dogs which carry guns on their backs.

Ahead of the London Summit the Chinese Government produced its own Global AI Governance Initiative which raises the potential for misuse and promotes the need for a system of regulation and evaluation.

There are calls for there to be international conventions similar to those agreed on the use of nuclear weapons.

One Chinese industry expert we spoke to said advances in military use are inevitable, and we are already seeing how drones have altered modern warfare in Ukraine and the Middle East.

At a recent AI Expo in Beijing we saw examples of robot dogs with machine guns mounted on them that can enter into hostile environments and kill a target.

There is a wide range of applications where AI can be used to develop weapons, strategies, carry out reconnaissance and defence.

Most stakeholders, including China, have agreed this is an area that must be controlled.

The US has taken steps to block China’s access to the most advanced semiconductor chips that power AI, aiming to slow the country’s progress.

But this summer Huawei launched a phone with components that indicate Chinese companies could soon be making advanced chips of their own.

The next few years will see developments reach a furious pace but can those gathering in London agree on how to keep that progress in check, and in human hands?

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