Forget AlphaGo; China’s Alibaba is using its AI to predict TV talent show winners

Last month, Google altered our technophobic opinions on AI by using its AlphaGo program to defeat a world champion at the ancient Chinese board game of Go. Although most of us that tuned into the YouTube livestreams of the face-off were likely puzzled by the images of a computer typing out moves to a game we’d never heard of, it was a far cry from the nightmarish depictions of AI we’d become accustomed to in film and literature.

Now, China’s version of Google, Alibaba, is doing its bit to further familiarize us with the technology. Instead of tasking it with a board game that boasts limitless possibilities, however, it’s matching it up with a more pressing (and popular) task; predicting the winner of a TV singing contest.

Related: A Japanese AI program just wrote a short novel, and almost won a literary prize

China’s popular reality TV show I’m a Singer will be getting the AI treatment, with Alibaba hoping it can outwit the public, and judges, by guessing the winner of the popular contest’s finale.

Simply titled “Ai”, the program was built by the ecommerce company’s cloud computing department, reports Tech in Asia. The project’s mastermind is a man named Dr. Min Wanli, who also held a research position at the IBM TJ Watson Research Center, known for its Watson AI.

Not content to tackle real-world issues, like the environment or economy, Alibaba is introducing Ai to the public on a popular platform as a proof-of-concept. In fact, the program’s entire approach will be tied to social media, which it will use to sift through mountains of data.

That makes it sound suspiciously close to a social media analytics tool. After all, the likes of Twitter and Facebook are already used by data scientists to predict everything from hurricane damage to election results. What makes Ai special, according to Alibaba, is its ability to also assess a singer’s “voice pitch and energy” and measure that against other factors, such as song choice and real-time audience response.

The Chinese tech giants’ AI will gather data throughout the course of I’m a Singer, presenting its results alongside the show’s judges. Alibaba promises that its program will be used to tackle real-world issues in the future, including other social trend predictions and personal assistance. Let’s just hope it doesn’t go rogue and nuke us all. Just kidding. That’s (probably) impossible, right?

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