China won’t stop stealing the thunder of 2018. Chinese dragons continue to awe the world with domestic and international developments. This time, WeChat makes a move towards a stronger e-commerce appeal, opening its ecosystem for brands to connect with potential customers. Not so long ago, the communication platform stepped into legal services and ID verification.
Pick #1. WeChat Opens its Closed Ecosystem for Brands
WeChat has made a fundamental change to the way it works. The company quietly launched a new feature named ‘brand zone’ at the end of 2017, which allows brands to display their official WeChat accounts, boutique stores, and other customized content to users who don’t subscribe to their content. Instead, users can search directly for the brands they want to visit.
The launch of the brand zone on WeChat is a breakthrough move that greatly strengthens the ability of the app to assist brands’ sales. The arrival of high-end luxury players including Gucci and Louis Vuitton, who have long refrained from working directly with the domestic e-commerce sites like Alibaba and JD.com, further showcases the competitiveness of the retail ecosystem that Tencent has been building.
That media and individuals don’t have the same ability to broadcast to non-followers gives some indication of the direction China is heading in 2018.
Pick #2. Facebook’s Virtual Assistant M Is Dead. So Are Chatbots
M’s core problem: Facebook put no bounds on what M could be asked to do. Alexa has proven adept at handling a narrower range of questions, many tied to facts, or Amazon’s core strength in shopping.
Another challenge: When M could complete tasks, users asked for progressively harder tasks. A fully automated M would have to do things far beyond the capabilities of existing machine learning technology. Today’s best algorithms are a long way from being able to really understand all the nuances of natural language.
Facebook is not left entirely empty-handed. The people who used the service and role-played as the omniscient assistant have generated valuable data that can be used by the company’s AI researchers. Using machine learning to make software better at understanding natural language and conversation is one of the group’s primary interests.
Pick #3. IBM’s quantum computer could change the game, and not just because you can play Battleship on it
The company has placed a working quantum computer on the cloud (although not a 50-qubit one), allowing for 1.7 million experiments by around 60,000 users.
According to a press release, IBM is also working with commercial partners in the finance, materials, automotive, and chemistry industries by allowing them access to the groundbreaking computing power these devices offer.