Monday, June 17, 2024

In show of force, Alibaba Cloud displays tech prowess at Hangzhou Asian Games

HANGZHOU — In what is being billed as the “first Asian Games on the cloud”, homegrown tech firm Alibaba Cloud is using the ongoing 19th Asian Games currently being held here to showcase its technological capabilities that could rival, if not surpass, its US counterparts.

Alibaba Cloud – the cloud computing unit of Chinese tech giant Alibaba Group – said it is now Asia’s biggest cloud provider and the world’s third largest after top dogs AWS and Microsoft Azure.

The stakes are high for Alibaba Cloud in its bid to make the Asian Games its major coming-out party a success because local pride is also on the line since the company is headquartered in Hangzhou, a booming city which is pulling out all the stops for the staging of the regional sports competition.

Alibaba Cloud is providing the fundamental architecture that supports the integration of the core tech systems of the Games, as well as intelligent applications such as cloud broadcasting and event organization and communications.

For example, at the end of each competition the Results Distribution System will receive data from the timing and scoring system at the venue, which will be further integrated into the central system for distribution in different formats through different application programming interfaces (APIs), such as the results display and news feeds.

The Hangzhou Asian Games will also be the first in the games’ history during which Rights-Holding Broadcasters (RHBs) will receive live footage through public cloud infrastructure. Alibaba Cloud expects to transmit more than 5,000 hours of live footage through as many as 68 high-definition (HD) and ultra-high-definition (UHD) feeds during the event.

Prior to cloud broadcasting, broadcasters had to rely on dedicated and more costly international telecommunication optical circuits and spend a considerable amount of time to set up the equipment, in order to send live footage halfway across the globe back to their home countries.

The 19th Asian Games has also launched an Intelligent Operation Platform to manage the operation of the three Asian Games Villages, which is expected to host over 20,000 athletes, reporters, and officials.

The platform leverages Alibaba Cloud’s advanced visualization tool to analyze real-time intelligence to further streamline the management system, while providing a seamless user experience for those who live in the Villages.

Alibaba Cloud said it is confident in hosting the all-on-cloud Asian Games after having tested its cloud solutions in two large-scale worldwide sports events — the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Beijing Winter Olympics in 2022.

In 2017, Alibaba entered a partnership with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to become the official cloud services provider and e-commerce platform services partner for the Olympic Games through 2028.

The following year, the Olympic Broadcasting Services (OBS) and Alibaba Cloud announced the launch of OBS Cloud, which supported Tokyo 2020 and Beijing 2022, offering cloud components in specialized configurations to support the demanding content production and delivery workflows of Olympic Games broadcasting.

“The Hangzhou Asian Games will be another milestone for Alibaba Cloud to “show how robust, scalable, and secure cloud computing technologies can help drive digital transformation of large-scale sports events to bring sports and entertainment to every corner of the world,” said Selina Yuan, president for International Business at Alibaba Cloud Intelligence Group.

At the sporting event, artificial intelligence (AI) is playing a major part as Alibaba Cloud has rolled out a slew of AI-powered initiatives meant to enhance the staging of the competition.

Among the initiatives includeleveraging on the company’s AI models to restore old images from past Asian Games to their original state, in partnership with the Olympic Council of Asia.

Alibaba Cloud has also launched an intelligent service robot that will provide all-day online consulting services in both English and Chinese for people living in the Asian Games Villages through a Web application service.

With Alibaba Cloud’s natural language processing (NLP) technology, the chatbot can provide real-time responses related to the services available in the Villages.

In partnership with a renowned Chinese director, Alibaba Cloud has also rolled out a digital art piece that leverages its AI image generation model Tongyi Wanxiang for production.

Based on images of iconic scenic spots in Hangzhou, the model generated images in the style of traditional Chinese painting that showcase the highlights of the Hangzhou Asian Games. The director used the images created by Tongyi Wanxiang for reference while working on the video production.

Alibaba Cloud also tapped Tongyi Wanxiang to create a series of postal stamps in collaboration with China Post. It leveraged the text-to-image, style transfer, and image-to-image capabilities of the model to recreate six famous landmarks in Hangzhou in a futurist style.

In a press briefing with Asian reporters, Dongliang Guo, vice president of product and solution for International Business at Alibaba Cloud Intelligence Group, said the company is hoping to use the experience it will gain from the quadrennial event to enhance an e-sports project it is currently developing.  

“We’re using generative AI internally to enhance our business productivity across the ecosystem and benefit our customers. But since it’s still early stage for generative AI development, all companies are doing their best to see what they can do with the technology,” Guo said.

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