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At the world’s top computer-vision conference last June, Google and Apple sponsored an academic contest that challenged algorithms to make sense of images from twin cameras collected under varied conditions, such as sunny and poor weather. Artificial intelligence software proficient at that task could help the US tech giants with money-making projects such as autonomous cars or augmented reality. But the winner was an institution with very different interests and allegiances: China’s National University of Defense Technology, a top military academy of the People’s Liberation Army.

That anecdote helps illustrate China’s broad ambitions in AI and recent prominence on the field’s frontiers. In 2017 the country’s government announced a new artificial intelligence strategy that aims to rival the US in the crucial technology by 2020. The latest data on the output of US and Chinese AI researchers suggest China is on track.

Chinese researchers have published more AI research papers than the US for several years, but questions have lingered about the quality and influence of those publications. A new analysis by the Allen Institute for AI shows that China’s share of top AI publications is rapidly approaching that of the US. If current trends continue, the two nations will produce an equal share of top AI publications by 2020.

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Category: Science