Samsung invested in a Chinese neural processing and general artificial intelligence startup DeePhi Tech, The Investor reported on Sunday, citing several sources familiar with the South Korean company's move. The investment was made at some point in August and was sizeable enough to surprise DeePhi Tech's officials, insiders said, without providing financial details of the transaction. Neither party has yet confirmed the deal in any capacity, though DeePhi Tech has Samsung listed as a partner on its official website, with the Seoul-based original equipment manufacturer supposedly being interested in the startup's neural network offerings, including both their architecture and compression solutions.
A number of other tech giants like Amazon Web Services and MediaTek are also listed as DeePhi Tech's partners, though it's currently unclear whether their status indicates they've financially backed the Chinese company like Samsung supposedly did. Industry sources speculate that Samsung's decision to invest in DeePhi Tech may not be purely technologically motivated and could also have a political background; the ongoing tensions between China and South Korea regarding the deployment of a U.S. THAAD missile system reportedly generated a state-sponsored anti-Korean sentiment among the media in the Far Eastern country which went as far as to ridicule Samsung's flagship smartphone this summer. By investing in one of the more promising startups in China which also belongs to an industry segment aggressively backed by Beijing, Samsung may be hoping to gain some political capital in the country and prompt the Chinese government to draw a clearer distinction between the tech giant and the political leadership of South Korea.
DeePhi Tech is presently developing a Deep Neural Network Development Kit for various deep learning solutions and is also working on technologies which would allow the creation of new neural processing chips, some of which have already been commercialized over the course of this year by the likes of Huawei and Apple. Samsung has been ramping up its focus on AI technologies in recent times but has yet to commercialize many products and services based on such solutions, with its most serious effort on this front to date being Bixby, a digital assistant that's presently enjoying a mixed response from consumers and critics alike.