How Baidu uses Artificial Intelligence to trace missing people in China

TE Raja Simhan Chennai | Updated on January 08, 2020

With its facial recognition technology, Baidu has helped over 9,500 people reunite with their families in China   -  metamorworks

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is not just another technology but also could be a powerful disruptive tool for public welfare as has been demonstrated by Chinese tech major Baidu. The company has used AI in China to find nearly 9,700 missing people and also help visually-impaired people. Its successes can be replicated in India.

In a talk at IIT-Madras’ tech fest, Shaastra 2020, titled ‘Innovation in the age of AI’ last week, Robin Li, Co-Founder, CEO and Chairman of Baidu, had said: “In China, we have already found over 9,000 missing people using AI technology, pretty much facial recognition technology — even after a person is missing for more than 20-years. We had a case where a boy was lost at the age of four, and at the age 25 he was identified as that missing person.”

Baidu AI Xunren

Elaborating on this, a company official said that Baidu AI Xunren, launched at the end of 2016, uses the AI technology to identify missing persons. To date, Baidu AI Xunren has helped nearly 9,700 people reunite with their families. People simply need to upload a photo of a missing person via various channels, including Baidu AI Xunren website, the Baidu AI Xunren Smart Mini Programme on the Baidu App or the Ministry of Civil Affairs’ website for missing people. The photo will be compared in real-time with the Ministry’s existing database.

Baidu AI Xunren also collaborates with prominent missing people organisations in China, such as Baobeihuijia. The accuracy rate for the facial recognition technology has reached 99.7 per cent.

Baidu’s cross-age facial recognition technology can identify missing people from old photos, so it can find people who went missing a long time ago, even if their appearances have changed significantly. For example, in 1999, a four-year old boy from Guizhou province named Hongjiang Liu went missing. In 2019, twenty years later, Hongjiang was reunited with his family after they uploaded his baby photo to Baidu AI Xunren, the official based in China said.

For the visually-impaired people, Baidu launched the Helping the Visually Impaired programme in May 2019 - the National Day for Helping the Disabled in China. It uses AI technologies to help improve the lives of visually-impaired people.

Helping the disabled

The company has transformed the workplaces of over 100 visually-impaired massage parlours across 40 Chinese cities. Baidu equips massage parlour rooms with Xiaodu smart speakers and intelligent furniture systems, which enable visually-impaired massage therapists to vocally control light switches, air conditioning, television channel and curtains.

The project has also collaborated with schools for visually-impaired students across China. It has built “AI Libraries”, which helps students learn through DuerOS-powered conversational AI technologies, and “AI Dormitories”, which improve students’ living environment through voice-controlled lights and curtains.

The project offers free, AI-powered solutions that assist visually-impaired people with their work, studies, and everyday lives, the official said.

Published on January 08, 2020

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