The “Treasure Voyage” of Chinese Artificial Intelligence
2017-12-12 17:12

At the “2017 China Entrepreneur Summit” hosted by China Entrepreneur on December 9th and 10th, SenseTime Group’s “SenseKeeper” facial recognition machine provided “facial check-ins” to more than one hundred leaders in the business world, including Kaifu Lee, Dongsheng Li, and Mingzhu Dong. This sophisticated, praise-winning facial recognition technology allowed guests to enjoy the efficiency and convenience of artificial intelligence (AI).

Since its establishment in 2002, “China Entrepreneur Summit” has held 15 successful summits, each one attracting the most influential Chinese business men and women of our time. In keeping with the theme of this year’s summit, “Believe in the future and revitalize entrepreneurship”, the presentation given by Dr. Li Xu, cofounder and CEO of SenseTime was “The World Facing East: The Rapid Rise of Chinese AI”, during which he presented business leaders and entrepreneurs with applause-winning original AI technology developed by China.


Article by|Reporter Leisheng Wang, China Entrepreneur

Just three days before the presentation, SenseTime and Japanese company Honda, a giant in the automotive filed ranking sixth in the world, announced that the two companies will be co-developing autonomous driving, to which SenseTime will be providing visual algorithms and development platforms.

 “The world is facing East”, said Dr. Li Xu, cofounder and CEO of SenseTime at the “2017 China Entrepreneur Summit”, hosted by China Entrepreneur magazine.

CEO Dr. Li Xu graduated from the Chinese University of Hong Kong, majoring in computer vision. His speech, fun and interesting, showed the audience that he’s not your average scientist.

Dr. Li Xu showed the audience a set of data. Currently, China has more than 15,000 AI patents; 30% of the papers presented at AI summits and more than 40% of those presented at computer vision summits were published by people of Chinese descent.

SenseTime and its affiliated research laboratory also contributed to this stunning percentage. Within its first 3 years of business, SenseTime presented a total of 119 papers at computer vision summits. According to Dr. Li Xu, this number not only surpassed technological giants such as Google and Facebook, but also renowned education institutions such as MIT and Stanford University.

Actually, SenseTime was originally founded in the computer vision laboratory at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, led by Professor Xiao’ou Tang. In 2014, they began developing facial recognition algorithms that had higher accuracy rates than that of human eyes. SenseTime was officially established at the end of that year.

In 2016, with the rise of AI, SenseTime quickly became one of the fastest growing computer vision companies. At the end of July 2017, SenseTime announced that it had completed B rounds of financing, accumulating a total of USD $410  million. The company’s current estimated value is more than USD $2 billion.

Based on original technology, SenseTime successfully ushered Chinese AI into a new era by integrating fundamental research, industry combination and industry partners. Dr. Xu talked about “reconstructing the industries”, indicating that he wants SenseTime’s technology to be integrated and used in each industry.

In the “1+1+X” mode put forward by SenseTime, “X” stands for industry potential, the first “1” stands for fundamental research, and the second “1” stands for products and solutions.

 “By combining technologies such as voice and natural language understanding (NLU) chains, we strive to create a complementary ecological technology platform for AI”, said Dr. Xu. He also emphasized that while SenseTime will be collaborating with more industries, the company will also accelerate the integration process of the industrial chain.

SenseTime and various AI companies are faced with an enormous market. “Just how big is the (AI) industry?” Dr. Xu asked his audience, “data reports have shown that by 2030, AI will contribute USD $15.7 trillion to global GDP in ten years. This figure is the sum of China and India’s current GDP”.

Dr. Xu also disclosed that 13% of SenseTime’s business is overseas, including collaboration with business giants such as the aforementioned Honda. This suggests, to some degree, that in the future, China will be an output country for high-tech products. From low-end raw materials and cheap “made in China” products to the “New Four Great Inventions”, namely high-speed rails, bikeshare, internet shopping and Alipay, Chinese AI may be able to play a new role in all of this, thanks to the support of government policy.

 “In the past we “journeyed to the west”, because we relied on the west for advanced technology and industrial modes. Now, we must embark on a “treasure voyage to” better service other industries with advanced technology”, said Dr. Xu.

Below is Dr. Xu Li’s full speech, given at the “2017 China Entrepreneur Summit”:

SenseTime is still a startup company, and in the past three years our goal has always been to develop original AI technology that is made in China. The Shang Dynasty was the first dynasty to keep a written record, and we hope to achieve a breakthrough as great as that era. We want to revitalize the industries, and lead an AI revolution.

We believe that AI can help industries reach new heights. China’s current AI development has enabled the world to face towards the East. We noticed that foreign technology press and technological giants have all turned their attention to China’s AI development.

I will, from the global, domestic, and SenseTime’s own perspectives, explain to you some of the changes I witnessed.

Many industries have realized that in the next decade or so, global reconstruction will rely on the development of core AI technology. Some assume that AI will rule humans one day. But how do industry professionals perceive AI? In the next 10 to 15 years, AI will assist and revolutionize productivity. In a nutshell, AI is key to improving productivity and efficiency.

Statistics have shown that by 2035, AI will increase the global labor force of 14 industries by 40%. If we assume that non-developed regions will not be affected by AI, the labor force increase for developed regions will be much higher than that.

Just how big is this industry? According to data reports, by 2030, AI will contribute USD $15.7 trillion to global GDP; This figure is the sum of China and India’s current GDP. Indeed, this industry has great potential. Even if we treat it as no more than a core productivity tool, it will still help markets achieve new progress.

AI can greatly improve overall living standards and significantly change people’s lives. But what is AI? What will most affect our lives in the future? SenseTime has four words to say: each person is unique.

How so? Everyone performs market transactions. People spend money to buy products they see value in, but if we sell merely software and products, many would rather buy hardware or equipment because they seem to have more value.

In a world where more and more customized services are becoming available for consumers, industries that provide value-added services are considered more valuable, and a great portion of these services are provided by industry professionals.

AI can provide more accurate services according to each person’s portrait, information and data. In the next decade, AI will change people’s lives significantly by providing unique services tailored for individual need.

As for China, the statistics we’ve collected in the past boasts interesting results: for the next stage of AI development, China has more talents than the United States and Europe. These statistics were based on the number of people with an overall understanding and passion for the industry. In fact, China’s future investment in AI will double that of western countries.

In terms of AI development, at SenseTime, we believe that we must seize every opportunity. As a startup company, many people have asked us the same question, “you spent two years becoming a unicorn, and now you’ve exceeded everyone’s expectations. Is your corporate goal to become the unicorn of the industry?”

In truth, our goal is to build a company that endures the test of time. We want our development to stimulate core changes and introduce more momentum into industries.

The following components must be present for AI to succeed, first is support by policy, which is the current trend. What kind of corporation does SenseTime want to be? We want to become a bird that rises with the wind. We are backed by policy, by capital chains, and by the society. So now, we require a breakthrough in core technology.

Chinese AI is now comparable to that of western countries. China has more than 15,000 AI patents, and 30% of the papers presented at AI summits were published by people of Chinese descent. This shows the emerging power of Chinese AI.

SenseTime has contributed mainly to the area of AI vison. At high-end conferences including ICCV and CVPR, more than 40% of the papers presented were published by people of Chinese descent. In the last three years, SenseTime and its affiliated research laboratory co-published 119 papers at computer vision summits - this number not only surpassed technological giants such as Google and Facebook, but also renowned education institutions such as MIT and Stanford University.

Finally, capital support is crucial. Currently, we can see that Chinese startup companies are the leaders in industry development and revolution.

SenseTime’s AI can help Chinese technology expand into other countries. 13% of our business is overseas, and in the future, through data, different industries and talents, China technology will easily engage itself with the western world and output its technology, subsequently increasing the overall value of the country.

Here are three secrets to the global expansion of core entrepreneurial technologies:

One, talents. The AI industry may owe its success to sudden popularity, but breakthroughs aren’t achieved in a day. In fact, even high-level AI designers who are most familiar with the industry spent a considerable amount of time accumulating the knowledge they have today. We’ve discovered that those who accumulate significant knowledge over the years become the real experts, so the first thing to do is to train talents. This is something that most AI companies must do in the future.

Two, each company must have their own unique technological breakthroughs. At SenseTime, we conduct our own R&D and deep learning hyper-calculations; we also have our own engines and generators. By combining software, hardware, and our knowledge of real-world applications, SenseTime was able to make advancements in the mechanisms of electricity generation.

Three, when talking about business modes, SenseTime strives to integrate its technology into each industry, so as to complete the reconstruction of the industries. Through integration, we will be able to transform and influence the vertical market.

The successful customization of services will not only improve people’s lives, but also the overall quality of urban living.

We hope to use AI technology to revolutionize the entire internet ecology, including online search, e-commerce, advertisements and entertainment.

How does SenseTime see this industry in the future? SenseTime hopes to create a new ecological community for AI.

First, an ecological technology community. We work in vision technology, so must create a complementary ecological technology platform for AI by combining it with various chains, such as voice, natural language understanding (NLU) and control technologies.

Second, client collaboration and cooperation. SenseTime recently signed a contract with Honda to co-develop autonomous driving; you’ll notice that technological potential is always more apparent when combined with different industries.

Third, the integration of the industrial chain. For example, in the telecommunication industry we need to strategically collaborate with companies that produce chips and other equipment, such as Qualcomm.

Finally, with government support and the advantages of current policies, we must seize this opportunity to make sure that the AI industry has a canvas to paint on in the future.

 “In the past we “journeyed to the west”, because we relied on the west for advanced technology and industrial modes. Now, we must embark on a “treasure voyage” to better service other industries with advanced technology, and together, take charge in human advancement.