Day 3: Plush Cheetahs and Virtual Reality

Today consisted of two visits to companies based in Beijing: Cheetah Mobile and the Beijing campus of Microsoft. I expected today to be boring and drag on for a long time but I was thankfully proven wrong.

When we arrived at Cheetah Mobile, we were greeted with the site of a glass complex with a large front lawn, which is uncharacteristic due to the high cost of land in the city. The lawn was decorated with a large fountain, koi ponds, and adorable cheetah statues with different outfits. The lobby was decorated with a large screen which displayed the University of Pittsburgh logo beside the Cheetah Mobile logo and read “Make the World Smarter”. We were guided by some employees into a conference room and were given adorable plush Cheetah Mobile mascots similar to the statues outside the complex. We watched a few commercials that outlined the mission of Cheetah and were greeted by the CEO, who gave us an overview of the company’s past and current goals and answered any questions we had about the company.

After the presentation, we were taken on a tour of the facility and offices by two employees. The office was laid out as I would imagine a Google complex to be. There were many small features and services that seemed to appeal to young aspiring developers coming out of Chinese universities, like Google in the United States. The complex was equipped with a gym, theater, karaoke room, massage room, a library service, and a slide that allowed for quick transportation between the second and first floor. Most of the employees were young and dressed casually. Throughout the tour, I continuously found that the company resembled Google.

The Microsoft visit was a sharp contrast to Cheetah. Rather than a tour of the facility and the offices, we were mainly introduced to the newest technologies currently being developed by Microsoft, such as the HoloLens mixed reality headpiece and a chat service where messages could be translated into multiple different languages in real time as they were sent. The live demonstrations of these technologies were impressive and their potential applications were outlined thoroughly. The tour concluded with a demonstration of the ability of one of Microsoft’s supercomputers to easily collect, analyze, and display traffic and air quality data and predict future values over time. We then listened to a presentation from the director of government affairs at the facility. His presentation described the history of Microsoft in China and its future and was followed by a question and answer session.

After both tours I was extremely tired, which was also due to the activities of the previous days of the trip. I took a long nap, then enjoyed a dinner of noodles and milk tea from the noodle bar at our hotel. Hopefully, I’ll have more energy tomorrow after resting for the remainder of the night.

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