How engineers influence products have a great impact on how consumers use them. The ability to navigate this relationship between innovator and consumer can make the difference between failure or success for a company.Clearer Communication
Baidu, China’s leading internet company and answer to Google, is making it much easier for your mobile device or computer to understand your speech. In Beijing, people are much more likely to talk to their phone than to swipe, type or search. Here in the U.S., we have voice control, but it is not always reliable. You’ve probably had the following experience with Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa or Microsoft’s Cortana: You say, “Siri, play Bruce Springsteen.” Siri says, “I’m sorry. I didn’t quite get that.” Baidu has improved the accuracy of voice recognition in a way that exceeds some options in the U.S. In Beijing, people are talking to their phones and getting results in noisy rooms and even on busy city streets. This technology is so practical and useful, the company is extending it for use with robots, cars and household appliances. Baidu is currently working with engineers at Stanford University to increase its usability and reliability and perhaps you may see this technology for use in the United States soon.Green Design
In Shanghai, the Gensler tower was built “extra green” and is an example for American architects and builders wanting to create “smart” buildings. The skyscraper won multiple international awards for its design in 2016 and currently is the second tallest building in the world. The taller the building, the harder it is to control heating and cooling. The Gensler tower was designed with a double-walled glass facade that creates a natural furnace; keeping it warm in the winter and cool in the summer. It has a twisted shape which creates room on the sides for more than 20 gardens which are used for natural air purification. There are 200 wind turbines that sit on the building’s roof. The roof also collects rainwater and re-uses waste water. Such innovation provides an opportunity to create communities that add more to the environment that it takes away. Soon you may see this technology coming to the U.S. In February 2017, Gensler announced plans for a similar 52-story tower in downtown Los Angeles.Super Spuds
In sub-Saharan Africa, cross-breeding sweet potatoes is saving lives. More than 43 million children under age 6 are suffering from Vitamin A deficiency which makes them vulnerable to blindness and malaria. Instead of giving the children Vitamin A pills, HarvestPlus and the International Potato Center (IPC) are helping families grow highly enriched foods. Locally grown sweet potatoes are cross-bred with other potatoes that are rich in Vitamin A. Over time, these crops will be higher in vital vitamins needed to treat deficiency in children who eat the sweet potatoes. These new potatoes are also better able to resist droughts and viruses which makes them a good bet for the future.
The International Potato Center says the super spuds do more than just fight nutritional deficiencies, they fight poverty. Sweet potatoes are considered a woman’s crop. Theses super spuds are giving female farmers a new crop to trade and sell, especially as more and more products use sweet potatoes as an ingredient.
The IPC plans on expanding the program over the next 10 years and continue focusing on resilient and nutritious crops.Make in India
India is speeding into the green car competition with its National Electric Mobility Mission 2020 and “Make in India” campaign. India’s government is pouring money into the country’s automotive industry and working toward a paradigm shift to promote electric and hybrid vehicles. The goal is to ensure the creation of 6-7 million electric and hybrid vehicles in India by 2020. The program includes incentives for car makers to build hybrid and electric cars with money allotted for R&D. This research includes the development of better battery technology, testing, electronics and motor systems integration. It also includes creating better charging infrastructure around the country, supply side incentives and encourages retro-fitting current vehicles with hybrid kits. Autocarpro.com projects India to be the world’s third-largest car producer by 2020.Autonomous vehicles
China’s Baidu, the same company improving voice recognition technology is betting on beating American companies like Google and Tesla in the race to make autonomous cars commonplace. Its plan is to have a viable autonomous cars the 2019.
Baidu is using the same artificial intelligence technology used to find malware on your computer or phone to find pedestrians and hazards in the roadway. This “intelligent” technology may soon be in your next vehicle. These examples show how engineers around the world are driving innovation.