There are many historical places capable of transporting visitors to the past. But very few sites that can show the future. Four floors of a skyscraper on Weining Street in Shanghi, the economic capital of China, achieve that last. In them is the headquarters of
, one of the leading companies in the development of artificial intelligence systems. PAS Retina is the first means of communication that receives permission to access laboratories in which all kinds of products moved by algorithms are shaped.
The offices of the main floor follow the pattern that Silicon Valley marks on the other side of the Pacific: a minimalist reception that is accessed by a glass door, virgin white walls decorated with motivating slogans, large diffused rooms full of run tables in which programmers work in front of vertical black and white screens, spaces for recreation with a pool and billiards that look like more decorative objects, Nespresso coffee machines to combat fatigue that are crowded all the time and meeting rooms with glass transcripts on which all kinds of notes have been written that ask us not to photograph.
Here and there, some workers have fallen asleep on the tables, and others recognize that the company is governed by the
, like the founder of Alibaba, Jack Ma, baptized the technology companies where they work from nine in the morning to nine at night, six days a week. "Sometimes more," says a programmer laughing. "But it is usual in the sector, we cannot complain because the working conditions are good and we are developing very interesting products. It is a fascinating moment for China," he adds.
The rest of the plants that DeepBlue occupies, where the prototypes of these products are designed, developed and manufactured, have little to do with that first, which is what is usually taught to the public. The laboratories are a chaos of cables, screens, hardly identifiable pieces and housings of all kinds of materials.
However, there is an element that attracts attention because it is often repeated: a circular hole made in many surfaces. "It is the hole in which the biometric scanner that we have developed to read the veins of the palm of the hand goes," explains Chen Jieen, the communication manager who accompanies us during the visit. "The beam penetrates the skin and reads the map that the veins draw, which is unique to each person and does not change with age. We think it is a much more reliable and efficient system than fingerprints, and that more and more will be used in all kinds of applications that require security, "he adds. This scanner is operational in all areas of the building. The employees simply put the palm of the hand over the circular hole and the doors open.
For DeepBlue, this is one of the key technological elements on which many of its products are then developed. One of the most successful is the TakeGo vending machine. It looks like a simple refrigerator, because it has conventional doors and lacks a mechanical system to deliver the product. The user, identified by the veins of his hand, takes and leaves what he wants. But the machine knows exactly what you have chosen.
An image recognition computer system determines what products each customer purchases without having to scan them, and directly deducts the amount of their electronic purses. "That allows, for example, that the user can repent, leave the product that has been taken at the beginning, and take another," explains Jie doing a practical demonstration. A reduced version of this machine, whose programming a couple of engineers work, is even equipped with wheels.
It has a cart shape and it is no coincidence: they have developed it for Coca-Cola, so that it can move autonomously through the corridors of high-speed trains in China. So, little by little, the traditional hostesses who sell drinks and snacks will give way to robots like this. The same happens with others that he has designed for urban cleaning systems that threaten to make the sweepers disappear, and with those of a package that can end up replacing the messengers.
But the robot that attracts the most attention in the laboratory, and with which they put more problems when taking photographs, has no built-in biometric scanner and its military camouflage paint denotes what its mission is: it is a
That has nothing to do with fiction. According to the CEO of the company, Chen Haibo, who talks with us during a long interview after the visit, this metal policy "processes the information it receives through its cameras, to which the images collected up to 50 of those that may be in the immediate vicinity, and uses different algorithms to determine if a person poses a threat or not. "
The DeepBlue robocop is already operational in China, and Chen acknowledges that he has also received orders from abroad, although he prefers not to disclose what passes. "In any case, it is not equipped with lethal weapons,
only with a tser
"he emphasizes. The manager prefers to emphasize the devices he develops to save lives, such as fire-fighting robots." What sets us apart from other artificial intelligence companies in China is that we not only investigate for other hardware companies, but that we develop and manufacture the final commercial products in our factory in Changzhou, "says Chen.
An autonomous operating bus
The one that combines more different systems is the
, whose wooden skeleton occupies one of the largest spaces in the laboratory. The body is the least, because it is an autonomous passenger bus in which the really relevant are the systems that move it. So this real-scale block is used to determine the location of all the sensors and cameras that collect the information required by their computers. And also to test the concept that DeepBlue has developed in order to increase the revenues of the municipal companies that operate the buses, in an attempt to stop them from being deficient. "We have installed a TakeGo machine so that people can shop on board, and screens for advertising that, through the tracking of the pupils and facial recognition, can determine the attention that passengers give and offer that feedback to advertisers to changing a somewhat higher rate, "Jie explains. Users can pay with the palm of their hand or with mobile applications.
The Panda Bus is already operational in a dozen Chinese cities. However, due to the lack of regulation, a human being still has to be supervising all the movements of the vehicle. On the last floor that DeepBlue occupies in the skyscraper, laboratories are more neat because they are destined for research. This is where the company develops its vision of the future in the longer term. Interpreting images is one of their priorities. "The cameras see, but the difficulty is that the computer understands what they are seeing. And, then, that they act accordingly. For a human being, differentiating a cup from a glass is something simple. For computers, not so much," Chen explains next to a screen that shows a multitude of parameters of a 3D scanned object.
Mental control of devices
At the moment, the company tries to implement this emerging technology in the prototype of a recycling bin capable of determining the material from which each element is produced to classify it correctly. But, without a doubt, the most amazing thing about the last floor is the computer mind control system that is taking its first steps and that we cannot show either: they have already managed to get a person to play Tetris without touching a single key or pronouncing a single one. word.
Enough electrodes capable of detecting brain waves are enough to change the position of the pieces or move them right and left. "It's just the first step in a revolution that won't take long to arrive," Chen promises with a smile and the invitation to hurry up where DeepBlue keeps its biggest secrets.
(tagsToTranslate) A trip to Deepblue (t) where China shapes the future with police robots and smart refrigerators – LA NACION