A Look Back at Alibaba Cloud Apsara Conference 2019

Alibaba Cloud’s Apsara Conference 2019, held in Hangzhou Cloud Town, which we covered has come and went. Here we share some of the interesting happenings of the three-day event packed with exciting tech-related demos, talks and announcements.

Throughout the event, both outside and inside the Cloud Town Convention and Exhibition Centre was buzzing with activity and packed with attendees that number in the tens of thousands, with millions more tuning in online.

In line with the theme “The Rise of Data Intelligence”, Daniel Zhang, Alibaba CEO, talked about how computing capability has become the engine that is boosting economic development, and data is its fuel. To read our coverage of the first day’s keynote, click here.

Among the esteemed guest speakers during the first day included Thomas Sargent (left), Nobel Laureate and Professor of Economics at New York University, who spoke about the future of the digital economy and Qi-Kun Xue (right), Member of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, who did the impossible by giving a very engaging and comprehensible talk on quantum computing.
Outside of the main forums, there were smaller briefing sessions where the experts were able to answer attendees’ burning questions.  Meanwhile, autonomous coffee vehicles (ACVs, you heard it here first) roamed the grounds to help people get their much-needed caffeine fix. 

The over 20,000 square metres of exhibition areas, featuring technologies and solutions from over 100 Alibaba ecosystem partners, were a sight to behold. Luckily for members of the media (ahemm…that’s us!) we were given a guided tour of the innovations on display.

Technology can definitely make the world a better place. Among the highlights of the conference was the announcement of the “Hunger Map LIVE”, where Alibaba is working with the UN World Food Programme (WFP) to use machine learning in the fight against hunger. Read about it here. Say no to wood. Tech has also allowed for new materials to be developed. For instance, these guitars were made using injection molding of carbon fibre materials, allowing production to be 500 times higher than before.

On the consumer side, various activities show that technology will without a doubt change the way we live, work AND play. Refinity, for example is one very interesting technology that promises to redefine our online shopping experience from one that is purely visual to a multi-sensory one that can even involve touch and smell.

Virtual AI assistants, such as the Tmall Genie developed by Alibaba, the company’s equivalent to Amazon Echo or Google Home, will soon invade our homes, offices and even vehicles. Is that a good or a bad thing? Only time will tell. Coordinating such a huge event with over 80,000 people involved must not be a simple process, as seen by the size of the Apsara Event Control Centre.

Day 2 of the conference was as eventful as the first, with loads of discussion on the different use cases of intelligent data and machine technologies in real world situations. Read our coverage here. Alibaba’s Hanguang 800 AI inference chip which was announced in the first day, again took centre stage as Dr. Xiaoning Qi spoke about edge-to-cloud innovations for inclusive AI.
Damo Academy, the source of many of the innovations at Alibaba. As the sign states, DAMO stands for Discovery, Adventure, Momentum and Outlook. Members of the Malaysian media, who despite having travelled thousands of miles to Hangzhou, were certainly thrilled to be part of the excitement at the Apsara Conference 2019.

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