The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Chinese AI Unicorn SenseTime today announced the MIT-SenseTime Alliance on Artificial Intelligence, a partnership the duo says “aims to open up new avenues of discovery across MIT in areas such as computer vision, human-intelligence-inspired algorithms, medical imaging, and robotics.” The partnership is expected to develop 30-50 AI projects each year, and will be part of the MIT Intelligence Quest (MIT IQ) project launched earlier this month.
SenseTime leverages facial recognition technologies powered by deep learning trained computer vision systems, along with video analysis, text recognition and autonomous driving technologies to provide business solutions.
SenseTime has applied AI solutions to 400 companies in multiple industries including automobile, finance, mobile internet, robotics, security, and smartphones. It has scored mega-clients like China Mobile, China UnionPay, Huawei Technologies Co, Xiaomi. and JD.com, and a strategic partnership with Nvidia.
Company founder Dr. Xiao’ou Tang is a Professor of Information Engineering at the Chinese University of Hong Kong and an MIT alumnus. He conducted his PhD research on applying computer vision to the study and classification of underwater imagery under the supervision of Dr. W. Eric L. Grimson.
Dr. Grimson is MIT’s Chancellor for Academic Advancement, and has been their Bernard M. Gordon Professor of Medical Engineering for 24 years. Commenting on the new partnership with SenseTime, he had this to say about his former student: “Xiao’ou has become well known throughout China and the world as a leader in the field of AI, especially computer vision and deep learning. I personally am proud of Xiao’ou’s success and the impact he is making on the world, and look forward to a deepened, mutually beneficial relationship between MIT and SenseTime.”
In late 2016 SenseTime raised US$120 million in funding, led by Beijing-based CDH Investments, Dalian Wanda Group, IDG Capital Partners and Star VC. Some six months later the company closed its Series B funding with US$410 million from CDH and Sailing Capital, which propelled it onto CB Insights’ 2017 technology unicorn list. SenseTime has received further strategic investments from Alibaba Group and Qualcomm. The company is sitting on a market valuation of US$3 billion and preparing for an IPO.
In recent years, MIT has been in an increasingly fierce AI tech competition with other US universities such as Stanford and Carnegie Mellon. In 2017 the latter launched its CMU AI initiative, knitting together more than 100 faculty members and 1,000 students.
MIT clusters more than 200 principal AI investigators in its Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, MIT Media Lab, Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, Center for Brains, Minds and Machines, and MIT Institute for Data, Systems, and Society.
MIT IQ, launched on Feb 1, is led by MIT President L. Rafael Reif along with Dr. Anantha Chandrakasan from MIT’s Electrical Engineering and Computer Science department, Dr. Daniele Rus, Dr. Dina Katabi, Dr. James DiCarlo, and Dr. Josh Tenenbaum. The project envisions MIT’s future AI endeavours in two parts: “The Core,” which will focus on fundamental algorithm research; and “The Bridge,” which will provide the MIT community with AI education, support, hardware, and resources.
As AI evolves from research labs into practical applications, this partnership between a top-notch university and an experienced solution provider is bound to unlock new tech breakthroughs and encourage additional strategic collaborations in the global AI race.
Journalist: Meghan Han| Editor: Michael Sarazen