A startup that describes itself as China’s leading artificial intelligence company has just raked in a cool $600 million in fresh investment led by tech giant Alibaba — making it the single largest venture capital investment in the AI sector.
SenseTime, which was established in 2014 and specializes in facial and image recognition technology, said the cash injection will provide “important impetus” to the buildout of its AI platform, “advancing the company’s technological innovation and opening up new business opportunities.”
Last year, it announced a partnership with Japanese automaker Honda to develop autonomous driving technology, an “algorithm + chip” collaboration with U.S. chipmaker Qualcomm — also an investor — which will see SenseTime’s algorithms used in smart devices such as phones, and has worked with Chinese consumer electronics retailer Suning to develop facial recognition for check-out free shopping and customer big data analysis.
The company also specializes in medical imaging, used to produce visual representations of the inside of the body for analysis and diagnosis, as well as deep learning, a subset of machine learning that mimics how humans learn.
“SenseTime has established an AI ecosystem anchored with robust research, deep industry collaboration and diverse partnerships. Our Round C funding will maximize these advantages by accelerating the development of a global footprint with a larger ecosystem incorporating both domestic and overseas partners. The funding will also help us widen the scope for more industrial application of AI, thus increasing the value of SenseTime’s global ecosystem,” said SenseTime cofounder and CEO, Li Xu.
“SenseTime is doing pioneering work in artificial intelligence. We are especially impressed by their R&D capabilities in deep learning and visual computing. Our business at Alibaba is already seeing tangible benefits from our investments in AI and we are committed to further investment. Our strategic partnership with SenseTime will spark more innovation and create value for society,” said Joe Tsai, Executive Vice Chairman of Alibaba Group.