Alibaba using machine learning to fight coronavirus with AI

By William Smith
Chinese ecommerce giant Alibaba has announced a breakthrough in natural language processing (NLP) through machine learning. NLP is a key technology in...

Chinese ecommerce giant Alibaba has announced a breakthrough in natural language processing (NLP) through machine learning.

NLP is a key technology in the field of speech technologies such as machine translation and automatic speech recognition. The company’s DAMO academy, a global research program, has made a breakthrough in machine reading techniques with applications in the fight against coronavirus.

Alibaba not only topped the GLUE Benchmark rankings, a table measuring the performance of competing NLP models, despite competition from the likes of Google, Facebook and Microsoft, but beat ‘human baselines’, signifying that its model could even outperform a human at understanding language. Applications include sentiment analysis, textual entailment (i.e. understanding the correct chronology of sentences) and question-answering.


With the solution already deployed in technologies ranging from AI chatbots to search engines, it is now finding use in the analysis of healthcare records by centers for disease control in cities across China.

“We are excited to achieve a new breakthrough in driving research of the NLP development,” said Si Luo, head of NLP Research at Alibaba DAMO Academy. “Not only NLP as a core technology underpinning Alibaba’s various businesses, which serve hundreds of millions of customers, but it also becomes a critical technology now in fighting the coronavirus. We hope we can continue to leverage our leading technologies and contribute to the community during this difficult time.”

Other AI initiatives put forth by the company for use in containing the coronavirus epidemic include technology to assist in the diagnosis of the virus. The company also made its Alibaba Cloud computing platform free for research organisations seeking to sequence the virus’ genome.


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