China Focus: Vast elderly, rural population power China's dialect-related industries

Source: Xinhua| 2019-04-15 21:15:07|Editor: ZX
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CHONGQING, April 15 (Xinhua) -- As writer Han sits in a sport utility vehicle in southwest China's Chongqing Municipality, he speaks to the car in a strong Chongqing dialect to control its functions.

"Please shut the air conditioner," Han says in a display booth of Chang'an Automobile Co., Ltd., a major car-maker in the country.

"I have received your order," the car replies, and turns off the air conditioner.

China's vast elderly and rural population are helping power a "smart revolution" in the country, with a variety of industries starting to cater to them by digging into the dialect-speaking world to tap more market potential.

According to latest government figures, China has about 600 million rural residents. Meanwhile, the government estimates that the number of people aged over 60 in China will reach 255 million, or 17.8 percent of the country's total population, by 2020.

China has seven major dialect-speaking areas, with each area hosting tens of millions of people.

The situation has given smart equipment able to recognize Chinese dialects an edge to compete in the market.

To cater to demand, many industries are beginning to focus on the dialect-speaking functions of smart equipment.

In a branch of Chongqing Rural Commercial Bank, Zhou Qilyu introduces the dialect-speaking ATM the branch is planning to launch.

"The ATM will not only understand standard Chinese Mandarin, but also Chongqing dialects," said Zhou, vice general manager of the branch. "The aim is to make sure that elderly people and rural residents, who don't understand how to operate computers, go through financial services smoothly."

Zhou said that by providing the dialect-speaking functions, they are offering more user-friendly services to the public. The bank currently has 1,775 branches all over Chongqing's urban and rural areas, with more than 25 million users, or 80 percent of Chongqing's population.

According to Chinese company iFlytek, the company's popular input mobile application is able to recognize 23 dialects in China, with more than 3 million users in the country. In the car system installed in many Toyota car models, for example, iFlytek provides a voice recognition system that understands Cantonese.

"Dialect-recognition functions are extremely important towards artificial intelligence," said Gu Yonghua, with Chongqing's China STEAM Education Co., Ltd.

Zheng Wei, with Cloudwalk Co., Ltd, said the dialect-recognition functions were a reflection of man-machine coordination.

"Only with man-machine coordination can people truly live better lives in the era of artificial intelligence," Zheng said.