Chinese facial recognition firm raises mammoth $410m in funding

14 Jul 2017522 Shares

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As governments and tech giants alike target AI advances, one facial recognition start-up has secured a huge amount of funding in China.

The Dubai police force is welcoming AI into its operation with open, robotic arms.

Apple is reportedly testing a new 3D facial-scanning feature that will unlock your iPhone instead of using a fingerprint.

Facebook is powering ahead with its augmented reality camera trials, taking in Meitu (and its 1.bn users) in its latest project.

AI is massive. The money it’s attracting is massive, too.

China focus

On that note, Beijing-based AI company SenseTime, which specialises in facial recognition software, has just raised $410m.

The funding will be used to finance the company’s efforts to develop computer vision and deep learning technologies, positioning it at the centre of what is likely to be a core aspect of the next few decades of the digital age.

SenseTime will also ramp up resources to expand its product line, as well as exploring new verticals such as autonomous driving.

“The capital we raised in our Series B funding will serve as a major driver,” said Xu Li, co-founder and CEO of SenseTime.

“It will allow us to maintain our innovative edge by supporting our efforts to construct groundbreaking AI infrastructure.”

Apple innovation

The interest in all forms of AI, VR, AR, voice and facial recognition software, and deep learning is obvious, across numerous industries.

For example, this year marks the 10th anniversary of the iPhone going on sale and Apple no doubt has a few more things it wants to take from its pocket.

There have been reports that the next iPhone device could come with a 3D sensor that uses facial scanning to unlock the device instead of fingerprints.

This biometric technology already exists in devices such as the latest Microsoft Surface Pro.

Robots take over Dubai

Meanwhile, in Dubai, robot police cars are expected to hit the streets before the end of 2017. Quite small, the vehicles are around the size of a child’s toy car and, according to Gulf News, they’re souped up with the latest technology.

“The robotic vehicles will be equipped with biometric software to scan for wanted criminals and undesirables who are suspected or are breaking laws,” said the report, with some surprising assistance for when the vehicles are out of their depth.

Last month, Dubai Police revealed ‘Robocop’, a 100kg robot destined to patrol the city streets and offer advice to passers-by.

The robot’s hardware will enable it to scan a person’s face to determine their emotions from up to 1.5 metres away. It can then change its mood accordingly to help them. In the event of a crime, its facial recognition software will record a criminal’s face and live-stream it back to police headquarters.

Is AI even that smart?

However, even with all these investments, some say that modern technology just isn’t up to scratch.

Michael Olaye, CEO of Dare, recently wrote on this topic for Siliconrepublic.com, claiming AI isn’t as smart as some people think.

“What we’ve been calling AI for the last few years is a low-level version of AI, known as weak AI, which is non-sentient and focuses on narrow tasks,” he said.

“Immense technological challenges stand in our way before we come anywhere close to something that resembles true AI.”

Gordon Hunt is a journalist at Siliconrepublic.com

editorial@siliconrepublic.com