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Google denies working on touchscreen tech for Chinese fighter jets

Google denied that it helped China’s military build a new touchscreen tool for its J-20 fighter jets.

The tech giant said that it had no role in the military aspect of touchscreen research that could potentially give an advantage to Chinese fighter jets in both air-to-air and air-to-ground combat, according to a report by the South China Morning Post.

A research paper seen by the Morning Post suggested that a lead scientist from Google actively participated in Beijing’s program on the new touchscreen tools. Shumin Zai, a member of Google’s A.I. team, worked on a research paper that could be used for touchscreen applications ranging from military uses to education and medicine.

“This paper addresses a very general research question in user experience design of how people interact with moving items on a touchscreen,” a Google spokesperson told the Morning Post on Thursday. “This paper is simply not about military applications.”

Google did not respond to Digital Trends’ request for comment.

The enhanced touchscreen applications are likely to be a game-changer for China’s J-20 fighter jets. As suggested by the research paper, the project focused on developing a new technology based on computer-to-human interaction. The emerging technology would essentially focus on deploying a “smart target-selection assistant” that will assist China’s pilots in selecting targets up to 50% faster and at the same time increase target accuracy by 80%. 

The new touchscreens are also far larger than those in American fighters. Chinese officials have said pilots could essentially use these touchscreens as an iPad, zooming in and out of pictures using their fingers.

The Chengdu J-20 fighter jet, also known as Weilong or “powerful dragon,” is the ideal candidate for enhanced touchscreens It’s one of the world’s most advanced fighter jets and can compete with the U.S. Air Force’s F-22 Raptor. The new touchscreen tool could help empower the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Air Force in future air strikes.

Google came under fire from employees last year after it came to light that the tech giant was secretly building a censored version of Google Search for China.

Google’s attempts to expand in China came after it removed its longtime motto — “Don’t Be Evil” — from its corporate code of conduct in 2018.

Many of Google’s services are blocked by China’s Great Firewall, and the company has tried to appease China, hoping the Chinese government would give it a second chance at tapping into a market of more than a billion people.

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Arun Budhathoki
Bio: Arun Budhathoki is a freelance journalist based in Kathmandu, Nepal. His articles have appeared in Vice, Asia Times…
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