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Alibaba Cloud Launches Sustainability App, Virtual Sign Language Interpreter for Hangzhou Asian Games

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Promoting sustainability and inclusiveness at the Asian Games and Asian Para Games, Alibaba Cloud launched a sustainability web application for athletes, journalists and staff members inside the Asian Games villages. The app will help drive low-carbon behavior. Alibaba Cloud also unveiled a virtual sign language interpreter to ensure individuals with hearing impairments could better participate in the Games.

“Cloud-based technology helps drive the sustainable and inclusive development of the Asian Games in Hangzhou. We want to leverage the power of technology, in collaboration with our partners, to drive more individuals to participate in our efforts to make the Games greener and more accessible to all,” said Jingren Zhou, CTO at Alibaba Cloud Intelligence.

Alibaba Cloud’s sustainability web application helps participants of the Asian Games adopt low-carbon behaviors.

Interactive web application to boost eco-friendly behaviors

To help the Hangzhou Asian Games honor its green mission, Alibaba Cloud, the digital technology and intelligence backbone of Alibaba Group, has launched a sustainable lifestyle web application that helps participants of the Asian Games adopt low-carbon behaviors and reduce their carbon footprint through digital engagement.

The interactive web application rewards athletes, journalists and staff members of the Asian Games with carbon points for making eco-friendly lifestyle choices such as taking public transport, recycling wastes and reducing food waste. Across the Asian Games villages, participants can scan a QR code to record their low-carbon activities in the web application, ranging from opting out of using plastic bags at the supermarkets to taking a photo of their clean plates at the dining hall in an effort to reduce food waste.

Behind the web application is a system that translates individual low-carbon activities into carbon points. Participants can accumulate points and redeem them for limited-edition Asian Games-themed pins and low-carbon products. The web application has attracted more than 310,000 visits to participate in low-carbon activities across the Asian Games villages and has recorded over 7 tons of carbon reduction through the activities since the opening of the Asian Games villages on September 16.

“Alibaba Cloud has proven expertise in supporting organizations’ and sports events’ sustainability initiatives with digital technology. Through the innovative sustainable lifestyle web application, we want to encourage the participants of the Asian Games to be more sustainable by recording their daily eco-friendly choices and help them see the tangible impact of their efforts,” said William Xiong, vice president at Alibaba Cloud Intelligence and general manager at Enterprise Service Cloud.

Alibaba Cloud tapped its AI-powered carbon management tool, Energy Expert, to measure and optimize the carbon footprint for the manufacture of the Hangzhou Asian Games’ mascots. For example, according to the assessment from Energy Expert, one of the three mascots, Congcong, has a cradle-to-gate carbon footprint of 1.59kg carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) with the emission from three major sources, including electricity use, packaging and raw materials.

By advising the factories to increase the use of solar power and adopt more eco-friendly designs, the sustainability platform helped slash the product’s carbon footprint by 0.15kg CO2e per item.

To encourage a wider scale participation, Alibaba Cloud has partnered with 10 companies and brands spanning retail, transport and banking to go sustainable inside the Asian Games villages. Its sustainability platform Energy Expert provided carbon footprint measurement, carbon neutrality calculation and certification services for the pin exchange center and low-carbon stores with energy-saving installations in one of the Asian Games villages.

As part of the sustainability initiatives during the Asian Games, Energy Expert helped Chinese dairy company Yili to identify the sources of the carbon emissions from its store at the Asian Games village and offered optimization plans for its electricity use to reduce its carbon footprint, including increasing the use of solar power and installing energy-saving lights and air-conditioner at the store. It also advised Yili to build a dedicated section for low-carbon products and roll out a recycling machine for milk cartons.

Digital avatar to facilitate communication for hearing-impaired individuals

According to WHO,[1] more than 1.5 billion people (nearly 20% of the global population) live with hearing loss. To foster inclusivity at the Asian Para Games, to be held between October 22 to 28, Alibaba Cloud introduced its digital avatar, Xiaomo, serving as a sign language interpreter for individuals with hearing impairments.

The cloud pioneer integrates the digital avatar Xiaomo into a mini-app on payment platform Alipay. The mini-app supports two-way translation between sign language and Chinese spoken language. Users can input voice messages, which the virtual character will translate into sign language for hearing impaired individuals. Conversely, the mini-app can interpret sign language into spoken language, facilitating seamless communication between the hearing and hearing-impaired individuals.

Sign language, with its unique blend of gestures, expressions and body movements, has its own phonetics, vocabulary and grammar that differ from spoken language. To accommodate these complexities, Alibaba Cloud compiled a Chinese sign language translation dataset that contains 25,000 signs gathered and annotated from sign language practitioners and hearing-impaired people across the Zhejiang province in China.

Alibaba Cloud leveraged its advanced visual recognition algorithm and its motion tracking capabilities to capture the movements of the hearing-impaired and translate sign language into natural language with a state-of-the-art language translation model. To convert natural language into sign language, Alibaba Cloud also developed a deep neural network and a lip movement generation module, enabling the virtual character to perform sign language gestures accurately.

“Through the integration of natural language processing, computer vision and machine learning technologies, we have developed a sign language translation system. This innovation aims to make the Asian Para Games more inclusive and accessible to those with hearing loss,” said Matt Zhang, algorithm engineer at Alibaba Cloud.

The AI sign language interpreter, Xiaomo, was also incorporated into the news channel of the Asian Games to enhance the accessibility of its announcements. During the Asian Para Games, Xiaomo can assist participants with hearing impairments in interacting with volunteers at the venues for various assistance, including asking for directions, seeking medical help and getting assistance with game viewing.


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