Alibaba Cloud launches sustainability web application


In an effort to promote the sustainability and inclusiveness of the Asian Games and the Asian Para Games in Hangzhou, Alibaba Cloud, the digital technology and intelligence backbone of Alibaba Group, has launched a sustainability web application for athletes, journalists and staff members inside the three Asian Games villages to drive low-carbon behaviour, as well as a virtual sign language interpreter to ensure individuals with hearing impairments can better participate in the Games.

“Cloud-based technology helps drive the sustainable and inclusive development of the Asian Games. 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 of Alibaba Cloud Intelligence.

Interactive Web Application to Boost Eco-friendly Behaviours

To help the Hangzhou Asian Games honour its green mission, Alibaba Cloud has launched a sustainable lifestyle web application that helps participants of the Asian Games adopt low-carbon behaviours 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, waste recycling 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 the points and redeem them for limited-edition Asian Games-themed pins and low-carbon products. The web application has attracted over 310,000 visits to participate in low-carbon activities across the Asian Games villages, and it 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 organisations’ and sports events' sustainability initiatives with digital technology. Through the innovative sustainable lifestyle web application, we want to encourage participants of the Asian Games to be more sustainable by recording their daily eco-friendly choices and helping them see the tangible impact of their choices,” said William Xiong, Vice President of Alibaba Cloud Intelligence and General Manager of Enterprise Service Cloud. 

Alibaba Cloud tapped into its AI-powered carbon management tool Energy Expert to measure and optimise 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 1.59 kg carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e), with emissions 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 0.15 kg CO2e per item.

To encourage a wider scale participation, Alibaba Cloud has partnered with 10 companies and brands - spanning across retail, transport to 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 centre 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. It offered optimisation plans for its electricity use to reduce its carbon footprint, including increasing the use of solar power and installing energy-saving lights and an 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 the World Health Organization (WHO[1]), currently 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, to serve 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 those 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 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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