From carwashes to karaoke: See China’s advanced mobile economy in action

The sharing or on-demand economy, epitomized by companies like Uber, Airbnb and Instacart, is a booming business in the United States, but it might be nothing compared with what’s happening in China.

Not only is China home to Uber’s three biggest cities in terms of number of trips, but it’s also home to mobile apps for nearly everything like ordering a car wash and same-day package delivery. Baidu (BIDU) chief scientist Andrew Ng calls this phenomenon online-to-offline, or O2O, and attributes it in part to China’s high population density and the fact that so many citizens’ first computers were mobile devices rather than laptops.

“When your first [computer] is a cell phone, then you start learning the most efficient ways to use a cell phone right away without having to transition from a laptop,” Ng explained to Fortune in a recent interview, which was primarily about artificial intelligence.

“The difference between your cellphone and your laptop, really, is that you have your cellphone with you all the time and they all have GPS,” he elaborated. “When a device knows where you are, there’s an increased opportunity to connect you to services that are maybe 50 feet from you.”

That China has a glut of city-dwellers looking for jobs probably doesn’t hurt, either, at least when it comes to finding folks willing to work as on-demand delivery people.

Ng shot videos of himself experimenting with a collection of these mobile apps during a recent trip to Beijing, and he shared the videos, which are embedded below, with Fortune. You can read the full interview with Ng on artificial intelligence, a field in which he is a renowned expert, here.

A carwash without lifting a finger

In this clip, Ng demonstrates a variety of O2O applications, including for carwashes (which he orders for a co-worker), laundry and personal chefs.

Hot food to your room in 26 minutes

Here, Ng uses a phone to order food from a nearby restaurant, a transaction that takes only 26 minutes from kitchen to doorstep. Some people in China, he says, have all but given up on cooking because it is so easy, and relatively inexpensive, to get good food delivered.

Finding services wherever you are

In this video, Ng shows off how Chinese consumers are only a few clicks away from booking a hotel room, for example, even while exploring an area on a common smartphone map application.

Mobile payments as commonplace

Mobile payment systems are becoming increasingly common in China. Here, Ng buys a soda from a vending machine using his phone and Baidu Wallet, and explains how even restaurants are getting on board.

Bored, strapped for cash? Find a local discount

Chinese mobile apps offer some steep, real-time discounts for local businesses, which are trying to keep customers walking through their doors. In this video, Ng shows off discounts on food, movie tickets and even private rooms at karaoke bars.

Same-day delivery for just about anything

China is a huge market for e-commerce, where stores like Alibaba’s Taobao have been known to do more than $9 billion in sales in a single day. Here, Ng orders a room fan and has it delivered the same day, and demonstrates an app for same-day delivery of medicine.


To learn more about the sharing economy, watch this Fortune video:

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