Chinese artificial intelligence (AI) startup SenseTime is planning to adopt augmented reality (AR) and autonomous driving technologies as it seeks to expand beyond its facial recognition offering. Apparently, SenseTime's AR and self-driving efforts will build upon the progress made by its existing AI algorithms used for the company's facial recognition system. The company's facial recognition technology is already used by law enforcement and authorities in China to detect suspected criminals and for other public safety operations. Additionally, the Chinese startup also provides text, human and object recognition, vehicle identification, and image processing solutions.
SenseTime co-founder Xu Bing said at a conference in Hangzhou, China that the new technologies for its self-driving ambition will be designed to "enable machines to recognize images both inside and outside cars, and an augmented reality engine, integrating know-how in reading facial expressions and body movement." SenseTime's AI business received a significant boost in November last year when it was reported that Qualcomm invested in the company through a funding round that concluded before the end of 2017, though its amount was unknown as both Qualcomm and SenseTime did not reveal such info. A month before that, Qualcomm and SenseTime inked an agreement to jointly develop AI solutions, incorporating SenseTime’s own algorithm into smart systems and devices. The company's AI technology works to analyze and recognize people with the use of cameras, a system that can prove tremendously useful in law enforcement efforts to capture suspects and criminals.
Last April, SenseTime became the most valuable AI startup in the world following a funding round that injected $600 million into the company, putting SenseTime's value at a whopping $3 billion overall across investments, equities, and other considerations. Other investors for that round included Temasek Holdings and Suning. Although the startup did not reveal which investor contributed what amount, Alibaba was supposed to have had the biggest stake in SenseTime. The company's expansion into AR and self-driving does not come as a surprise since that funding round was mainly focused on branching out into those same categories and on an upcoming service dubbed “Viper,” which will supposedly process vast amounts of video from numerous sources in real time.