Jun 11, 2021

Chinese AI Model Wu Dao 2.0 Unnerves Europe

3 min
Through its Wu Dao 2.0 model, China takes the lead in the race to dominate artificial intelligence and natural language processing

Unveiled by the Beijing Academy of Artificial Intelligence (BAAI), China’s latest artificial intelligence model can process natural language text, write essays and poems, and recognise images. Not only that, it can create alt text from static images and generate realistic images from text. Wu Dao 2.0 is multimodal, and it’s light years ahead of anything the U.S. or Europe has built. 


According to Wu Dao 2.0’s developers, the model is 10 times more powerful than OpenAI’s GPT-3, formerly lauded as state-of-the-art in AI. Trained on 1.75 trillion parameters, Wu Dao can sort through massive amounts of data and generate text that’s virtually indistinguishable from human prose. “The way to artificial general intelligence is big models and big computers”, said Dr Zhang Hongjiang, chairman of BAAI. “What we are building is a power plant for the future of AI. With mega data, mega computing power, and mega models, we can transform data to fuel the AI applications of the future”. 


Monopolising NLP 

What makes Europe nervous is that once China pulls ahead, other nations may never catch up. Language models are often a symbol of how advanced a certain country is in its artificial intelligence capabilities. Once a clearly superior model emerges, such as Wu Dao 2.0, companies will adopt it in order to compete in the global market. “We’re about to lose digital sovereignty in the AI space if we don’t act right now”, said Jörg Bienert, chairman of Germany’s Federal AI Association


Just as Google runs the playing field for search engines, Wu Dao 2.0 could grow to monopolise the language modelling world. As a result, some critics of the new technology warn that massive NLP models will enhance China’s propaganda mission. And as consumers turn to Alexa and Siri searches as a means for rapid answers, the U.S. and Europe worry that China’s AI could spread misinformation and skew global data. 


After all, NLP models often perpetuate the worldviews of the countries that create them—and Western countries are determined not to let China control the narrative. Tensions rose this month between western nations and China as the U.S. passed its Innovation and Competition Act through the Senate. In addition, European leaders have raised the alarm. “[China] beat the U.S. to it, while the EU was not even close in the race”, tweeted German MEP Axel Voss


More Money, More Power 

To accelerate the EU’s AI capabilities, seven European countries—Germany, Austria, Sweden, Croatia, Slovenia, the Netherlands, France, and Belgium recently sent a letter to the EU’s Internal Market Commissioner asking him to increase funding. France, for instance, will launch its Large European AI Models initiative to create Euro-based NLP models, but other countries are still far behind and need funding to catch up. 


Compared to the U.S. and China, which control 80% of blockchain and AI investment, Europe invests only 7% or €1.75bn. Overall, the EU faces a €10bn gap in AI research that it now intends to make up—if that’s possible. The truth is, European countries will have to work together and share research to stand a chance against the world’s leading AI superpowers. 


Although Europe has started to throw money at AI with programmes such as Horizon 2020, and recently developed new supercomputing and data-sharing abilities, many don’t think that the bloc can “counter the Chinese threat” alone. According to Bienert of Germany’s AI Association, the West must act before it’s too late: “[W]e need a collaboration between the U.S. and Europe”. 

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Jun 18, 2021

Microsoft: Building a secure foundation to drive NASCAR

3 min
Racing fans can expect the ultimate virtual experience as a result of the partnership with Microsoft and NASCAR

Microsoft is a key partner of The National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR) and together they are driving ahead to create an inclusive and immersive new fan experience (FX).

These long-term partners have not only navigated the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic with the use of Microsoft Teams and Microsoft 365, but are now looking to a future packed with virtual events to enhance the FX, well beyond NASCAR’S famous Daytona racetrack. 

“Together, we've created a secure environment that's allowed for collaboration, but the future is all about the fans”, said Melinda Cook, General Manager for Microsoft South USA Commercial Business, who cited a culture of transparency, passion, adaptiveness, and a growth mindset as to why this alignment is so successful.”

“We've partnered to create a fluid, immersive experience for the users that is supported by a secure foundation with Microsoft in the background. We are focused on empowering and enabling customers and businesses, like NASCAR, to reach their full potential. We do this with our cloud platform which provides data insights and security.”

“Our cloud environment allows NASCAR to move forward with their digital transformation journey while we are in the background,” said Cook who highlights that Microsoft is helping NASCAR

  • Empower employees productivity and collaboration
  • Improve fan engagement and experience
  • Improve environment security and IT productivity
  • Improve racing operations


Microsoft Teams, which is part of the Microsoft 365 suite, enabled employees to work remotely, while staying productive, during the pandemic. “This allowed people to provide the same level of productivity with the use of video conference and instant messaging to collaborate on documents. Increased automation also allows the pit crews, IT, and the business to focus on safety, racing operations, and on the fan experience,” said Cook.

“We have started to innovate to create a more inclusive fanbase, this includes using Xbox to give people the experience of being a virtual racer or even leveraging some of the tools in Microsoft Teams to have a virtual ride along experience.”

“These environments are how we create a more inclusive and immersive experience for the fans. We're working on a virtual fan wall which allows people from new locations to participate in these events,” said Cook, who pointed out Microsoft was also helping bring legacy experiences alive from NASCAR’s archives. 

“At Microsoft we can take it one level further by letting fans know what it's like to see the pit crew experience, the data and all the behind-the-scenes action. We will continue to improve automation with machine learning and artificial intelligence, from marketing to IT operations to finance to racing operations,” said Cook.

Christine Stoffel-Moffett, Vice President of Enterprise Technology at NASCAR, said: “Microsoft is one of our key partners. They have been instrumental in helping the NASCAR enterprise technology team re-architect our Microsoft systems to ensure an advanced level of security across our environment, contribute to our business outcomes, and focus on fan experience.”


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