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Hu Yu: Seize the commanding heights in the field of artificial intelligence

Character biography

Hu Yu, born in 1978 in Jing County, Anhui Province, is the executive president of iFlytek. In 1995, Hu Yu was admitted to the University of Science and Technology of China and became one of the first founders of iFlytek in 1999. Since then, he has completed a master’s and doctoral degree while starting his own business, and has continuously optimized speech technology, helping the company to win a number of global firsts.

Hu Yu, who is not confused in his recent years, is a cross-border player who successfully combines scientific research and business in the field of artificial intelligence. He also has the attribute of “cute”. His appearance is as round as a cute character, and he is full of passion and fun in various speeches.

The iFLYTEK company he co-founded in 1999 has now ranked first in several international competitions in artificial intelligence, becoming a shining business card of China’s artificial intelligence industry.

Hu Yu: Seize the commanding heights in the field of artificial intelligence

Start a business with the same mentality as playing

As a successful entrepreneur, Hu Yu’s 3 suggestions for entrepreneurs have been very popular recently. He advises others to start a business with the same mentality as playing, because “the business of playing must be something you really like”. He also suggested: “When you go to play career, you must do it with the person you like; the process of playing is more important than the result. It is up to people to make things happen, change what you can change, and accept what you can’t change.”

Hu Yu’s entrepreneurial path started with finding the right partner to play with.

Hu Yu, who was born in Jing County, Xuancheng City, Anhui Province, in 1978, met Liu Qingfeng, his later entrepreneurial partner and current chairman of iFlytek, very early. In 1995, when Hu Yu participated in the college entrance examination as a volunteer, Liu Qingfeng, a fellow who was 5 years older than him and was studying in the Department of electronic Engineering of the University of Science and Technology of China at the time, said to him: “The University of Science and Technology is good, come to us!” The champion Hu Yu became Liu Qingfeng’s fellow disciple.

In 1997, Hu Yu, who had just entered the third year of his junior year, entered the Human-Machine Speech Communication Laboratory in charge of Professor Wang Renhua. Liu Qingfeng had already taken charge of the research and development of the National 863 Project “KD Series Chinese Language-to-Speech Conversion System” in the same laboratory. In 1998, the system was successfully developed and won the first place in speech synthesis in the national 863 competition.

After winning the award, Professor Wang Renhua told the students that technology is meaningful only if it is practical, and encouraged them to market the technology. On June 9, 1999, iFLYTEK was founded. Wang Renhua was the first chairman. Among the first 18 entrepreneurs, Liu Qingfeng, who had just graduated with a master’s degree at the time, and Hu Yu, who was still in his senior year, were included.

iFLYTEK’s core technology is intelligent voice. The prospects for this industry are extremely broad. But the Chinese voice market before 1999 was almost entirely in the hands of multinational companies. At that time, international giants such as Microsoft and IBM set up speech research bases in China one after another, and domestic speech technology talents basically flowed out after graduation. With the courage of a new born calf not afraid of tigers, iFLYTEK has taken over the important task of “the Chinese voice industry must be in the hands of the Chinese”.

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Starting a business is fun but not easy

Since the establishment of iFLYTEK, it has experienced the sudden rise and fall of the world Internet bubble. In 1999, the stocks of Internet companies all over the world continued to rise, and “all startups said they were Internet companies”. But after March 2000, the stocks of Internet companies plummeted, and the bubble began to burst. “Many startup companies said that I have nothing to do with the Internet.”

Recalling the past, Hu Yu told reporters with a smile: “Artificial intelligence is very hot now, and many people say that they are doing artificial intelligence. If this wave falls again, many people will definitely say that they have nothing to do with artificial intelligence. But for iFLYTEK, AI is the only thing we can do.”

iFLYTEK used to finance the investments of Lenovo and Fosun during the high Internet bubble. However, as soon as the Internet bubble burst, the investment became unsustainable. When the company was in the most difficult time, Liu Qingfeng lent money to pay everyone’s salaries. Hu Yu said that when he was still studying in school, he felt that it was good to have a salary, but he did not realize that the company was on the verge of life and death.

There is such a joke circulating in iFLYTEK: After “Lenovo Ventures” invested in iFLYTEK in 2000, its investors participated in iFLYTEK’s first monthly meeting and cried when they went back: “I didn’t expect core technology to be so difficult. make money!”

Hu Yu recalled that iFLYTEK, which had just started a business at that time, was facing its first survival crisis because of its immature technology, and the company’s only major customer, Huawei, wanted to return it – “Huawei said that your products are useless and cannot solve the problem within a week. , I can’t give you an order.”

This group of young entrepreneurs began to work hard to fill the gap. “At that time, we didn’t sleep for three days and three nights in a row, and finally passed the Huawei test within a week.”

Become the world’s first in China

While starting his own business, Hu Yu completed his master’s and doctoral studies at the University of Science and Technology of China, and obtained his doctorate in 2009. In the nearly 18 years of his entrepreneurial career, the first 10 years were parallel to his academic career, which made his entrepreneurial memory more idealistic.

In 2005, iFLYTEK established a research institute, and Hu Yu is the executive dean of the institute. He really wanted to know how to do world-class research, so he set his sights on Huo Qiang, a professor at the University of Hong Kong. From 2005 to 2007, Hu Yu worked for Huo Qiang as a research assistant for two years. “I figured out how to do world-class research in Hong Kong, and I often bring new things from the University of Hong Kong back to the mainland in time.” Hu Yu said.

The change from hesitation to self-confidence is closely related to the many world firsts that iFLYTEK has “played”.

When Hu Yu presided over the iFLYTEK Research Institute, since 2006, iFLYTEK has won eleven consecutive championships in the international speech synthesis competition “Blizzard Competition”. In 2016, iFLYTEK won the first place in all indicators in the International Speech Recognition Competition; in the field of cognitive intelligence, iFLYTEK successively won the first place in the world in the International Cognitive Intelligence Test and the first in the core task of the International Knowledge Graph Construction Competition.

Among these “firsts”, there is also an interesting little story. The Blizzard competition is based on English speech synthesis, and iFLYTEK has never lost its crown since its first victory in 2006. This unsuspenseful ending was so boring to the competition organizing committee that they changed the language of the competition from English to Hindi at one point in 2014. As a result, iFLYTEK is still the first in this competition. The Indian researchers who speak Hindi as their mother tongue cannot play the Chinese who do not understand Hindi at all, and they have to be defeated. “There are two reasons. One is that we have advanced voice technology, and the other is that we have also made great efforts to find a lot of student volunteers in India to judge and appraise our technology.” Hu Yu said proudly.

iFLYTEK, which was listed on the Shenzhen SME Board in 2008, has now developed into a large company with 6,000 employees and a market value of tens of billions of yuan. It has grown from a pioneer in China’s voice industry to a leader in the world’s voice industry. “In the process of starting a business, I realized that the world’s best research and the world’s most successful industry can be made in China,” said Hu Yu.


Playing a Cognitive Revolution for Humanity

People may not be familiar with iFLYTEK, but often benefit from the company’s voice technology.

For example, in your commonly used mobile phone software, “Lingxi Voice Assistant” can make voice dialing, “Xunfei Input Method” can turn your words into text, “Recording Treasure” can mark key points, and can also listen to sounds and recognize people to make the recording more accurate. Convenient…you can even let your favorite goddess and male gods serve you.

The continuous improvement of iFLYTEK’s voice technology also benefits from the continuous use of Chinese people. When iFLYTEK Voice was released in 2010, the recognition rate of the online technology was only 60%, half a year later it was 80%, and later it reached 95%.

Hu Yu’s goal is not limited to voice technology. He looks forward to leading the transformation of the artificial intelligence industry starting from voice. “Since 2014, we realized that speech is a very core part of artificial intelligence, which is more difficult than images and words, and can lead the transformation of artificial intelligence. In 2015, we proposed that speech is the cognitive revolution of artificial intelligence, and it has a profound impact on language. The grasp of human beings is the source of the human cognitive revolution.”

“Artificial intelligence is an important direction of the information revolution. We must succeed not only in basic research, but also in the industry.” Talking about future goals, Hu Yu is ambitious, “Iflytek will occupy the field of artificial intelligence. The commanding heights of the world.”

“People have great ideals, but happiness in life is also very important.” Hu Yu’s WeChat avatar is a group photo of his cute dragon and phoenix twins. In Hu Yu’s view, the future of artificial intelligence is like his children: cute and full of infinite possibilities. (She Huimin, reporter from Economic Daily and China Economic Net)

Only true love will “play”

When it comes to innovation and entrepreneurship, many people complain. It is really hard. Many entrepreneurs tell their stories. Overtime, overdraft, burning money, and failure are common occurrences, and they face various pressures and challenges every day. Take Hu Yu as an example. He started his business in college. It took 18 years in a blink of an eye. How many hardships and ups and downs have he experienced?

However, why are there so many people who are willing to endure hardships after repeated defeats and battles?

Hu Yu used “play” to point out the motivation of entrepreneurs to keep moving forward. Play a career you really like with your favorite partners, and even if you suffer a lot, you will be happy. Once successful, the sense of achievement will certainly burst.

Of course, there are different ways to “play”, and not all of them are suitable for entrepreneurship. For example, playing casually, playing casually, and retreating when confronted with obstacles is definitely not the way to start a business.

Hu Yu once said: “If you want to play something you really like, start a business with the same mentality as you play, but not be cynical.” Indeed, only “true love” can “play”. True love brings enthusiasm, perseverance and hard work, and these are the qualities that entrepreneurs need.

The vitality brought about by mass entrepreneurship and innovation will become a new engine for the continuous growth of China’s economy in the future. In this tide of innovation and entrepreneurship, young people who love to “play” are a force that cannot be ignored. I look forward to more young people practicing their internal skills, seizing opportunities, and “playing” with the career they really like, playing with style, playing with level, and playing with a bright and beautiful future. (Original source: Economic Daily Author: She Huimin)