Weekly news digest for tech fans: Baidu AI versus humans on TV quiz show
By Gong Zhe

2017-01-08 10:05 GMT+8

The 50th CES: smart home breakthroughs on horizon
CES 2017 in Las Vegas.‍ /CFP Photo
The Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas has passed its 50-year milestone. The event is closing today, but we are still captivated by the innovations that were on show, without being caught by any single game changer, as we were with 4K TV in 2015, or the 4G smartphone boom in 2011.
The majority of the technology debuted this year can be included into the "smart home" category, as cloud-based data analysis adds convenience to our daily lives. Beds, fridges, washing machines… even dustbins are becoming smart.
GeniCan wants to turn your dustbin smart. /Screenshot from genican.com
It seems likely that an app integrating all this home data will appear on the market soon, to help us deal with the mess of information generated by smart electronics.
Mass unwanted dollhouse orders after Amazon Alexas overhear TV host
Steve Rabuchin, Amazon president of Amazon Alexa speaks during the Huawei keynote address at CES in Las Vegas, January 5, 2017. /CFP Photo
Another highlight at this year’s CES has been integration with Alexa, Amazon’s intelligent personal assistant, and its related hardware Echo. Many smart home device suppliers have announced support for the popular voice-operated AI during the tech fest. But as the names Alexa and Echo penetrated into consumers' head, a bizarre incident on Thursday reminded us that the technology is far from mature.
Reporting the story of a young girl who had used Alexa to order an expensive dollhouse unbeknown to her parents, a TV host in Dallas, US used the phrase "Alexa ordered me a dollhouse" during his morning show. That reportedly caused Amazon Echo devices around the city to automatically place dollhouse orders online — which, of course, their owners would never want.
The Amazon Echo, a voice-controlled virtual assistant. /CFP Photo
If your house is equipped with automation that takes voice commands, you don't want a TV host to become its master, do you?
Good news is, you can turn this feature off in the Alexa app, but many users would then ask, why should I buy it in the first place, if it’s not going to be listening to me?
Maybe Alexa needs to get smarter and recognize the command-issuer as well.
Chinese central banks warns Bitcoin traders after wild fluctuations
CFP Photo
There have been huge rises and falls in the price of Bitcoin in recent days. The virtual currency jumped more than 14 percent on Friday, after hitting an all-time high of 1,180 US dollars (about 8,163 yuan) on Thursday. But as of Sunday morning BJT, the price has fallen to around 900 US dollars. 
CFP Photo
The fluctuation was so wild that the Chinese government decided to take action. The People's Bank of China Shanghai Head Office released a statement on Friday urging Chinese trading platforms to analyze investments and “rectify misbehavior.” The office also held talks with the heads of Shanghai's three largest Bitcoin trading platforms.
Baidu AI goes up against human competition on TV quiz show
Dario Gil, director of symbiotic cognitive systems at IBM Research, demonstrates Watson at the company's headquarters in New York, US, on Oct. 7, 2014. /CFP Photo
IBM secured fame for its AI robot Watson when it beat humans in tests of knowledge and logic on US TV quiz show "Jeopardy!" in 2011.
This may have inspired China's biggest search engine, Baidu, to promote their AI system in a similar way.
Baidu's Duer AI robot demonstrated during the TV show's press conference in December 2016. /CFP Photo
During an episode of reality show “The Brain” broadcast across China on Friday, Baidu's machine Duer bested its human opponent in facial recognition. The AI managed to find the right photo of a person among 1,000 others, and tell twin sisters apart with a childhood photo of only one of them.
Although audiences were amazed by Duer's ability, many technophiles pointed out the results were unexceptional, given that machines have been better than humans at facial recognition for years.
Falcon 9 to resume flight after explosion and delay
An explosion on the launch site of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket is shown in this still image from video in Cape Canaveral, Florida, US September 1, 2016. /CFP Photo
The explosion of a SpaceX Falcon 9 reusable rocket in September may live fresh in the memory, but Elon Musk's company has moved on.
The US Federal Aviation Administration granted SpaceX a license to continue launching its rockets on Friday, after reviewing the private aerospace company’s report into the accident.
SpaceX's original plan was to resume launches in December, but later pushed the date to January 9, which is tomorrow. The rocket will carry 10 satellites produced by public company Iridium Communications.