Alibaba Group’s cloud computing arm on Thursday unveiled new products and technologies, including a personal cloud computer, at its biggest technology event of the year.
At just 60 grams – roughly the weight of an egg – the palm-sized computer is Alibaba Cloud’s latest effort to help users “more easily enjoy the benefits of cloud computing anytime, anywhere, in a cost-effective yet secure way,” said Jeff Zhang, president of Alibaba Cloud Intelligence, at the 12th annual Apsara conference.
Connectable to any computer screen, the device offers greater cloud-computing powers than many PCs. For example, the rendering time for one frame of high-resolution animation on the device is a mere 10 minutes, almost nine times faster than its traditional counterparts.
To help users keep their cloud computers in tip-top shape, Alibaba Cloud also created its own self-developed app-streaming software for easy-to-implement system upgrades and licensed app downloads.
“We hope our cloud computer can help people access resilient computing power whenever they need to, so they can conduct complex tasks which usually require sophisticated and powerful PCs, such as video editing, animation rendering, software development, and online customer services,” said Zhang.
Though available only to enterprise partners for the time being, Alibaba Cloud said it plans to make the computer ready for individual consumer purchases in the near future.
DAMO Academy’s Autonomous Last-Mile Delivery Robot
Also at Apsara, Alibaba’s research and innovation institute, DAMO Academy, announced the large-scale rollout of its fleet of autonomous robots for last-mile deliveries.
“We are expecting a rapid spike of delivery demands brought by the thriving New Retail and local services businesses in the increasingly digitalized world,” said Zhang, adding that Alibaba Cloud has been investing in smart logistics for years.
According to China’s State Post Bureau, there has been a surge in demand for courier services in the country, with over 60 billion packages delivered in 2019 – a 20% increase compared to 2018.
To meet this rising demand, DAMO’s enhanced logistics robots can carry up to 50 packages across 62 miles on a single charge. Through the mobile apps for Taobao and Cainiao – Alibaba’s logistics unit – users can schedule times and locations for the robots to carry out package deliveries and retrievals.
The delivery robots are also equipped with Alibaba’s advanced positional and deep-learning technologies to help them navigate complicated environments, even with weak or no GPS signals.
The robots will support Cainiao’s deliveries across thousands of communities in China starting next year and also have the capabilities to support local service providers in the future, said Zhang.
Digital Technologies Power Sporting Events
Another Apsara highlight was the launch of digital technologies that support the organization and broadcasting of major sporting events, especially in a post-coronavirus environment.
“Health and safety has to be front of mind at all venues and events, and our solutions help event organizers deliver on their post-pandemic responsibilities with reduced and unnecessary traveling,” said Selina Yuan, Alibaba Cloud Intelligence’s president of international business.
Event organizers can leverage Alibaba Cloud’s event-simulation services – including data-driven recommendations for seating planning, traffic control and camera positioning – to virtually plan and adjust venue layouts without the costs of staging physical rehearsals. Additionally, Alibaba Cloud’s digital badge solution can help eliminate paper tickets and provide spectators with all-in-one digital access to important information, such as venue maps, competition schedules, real-time updates and health advisory information.
To streamline sports broadcasts, the company is offering press conference on the cloud, an on-demand streaming solution for journalists to tune into events across different locations without having to travel. This service is bolstered by Alibaba Cloud’s fan video hub, an AI-based content-curation solution that filters and aggregates social-media videos uploaded by fans and projects them onto stadium screens to boost user engagement.
“As a global leading cloud service provider, we are excited to see our mature technology innovations to be used to support the digital transformation of some of the largest international sports events,” said Yuan. “We want to maximize the thrill of sporting achievements, while enabling event organizers to work safely and even more efficiently with fans and global broadcasters.”
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