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Alibaba Leads $600 Million Funding of AI Developer SenseTime

Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba has led a $600 million funding round for SenseTime, a leading artificial intelligence startup.

The company claims to be China’s leading AI platform and algorithms supplier. It specializes in fields including facial and image recognition, autonomous driving, medical imaging and deep-learning hardware optimization. The new capital is expected to help it open new businesses.

The capital injection was SenseTime’s third, or Series C, funding round. Other premium investors joining Alibaba include Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund Temasek and Chinese retailer Suning. SenseTime previously raised $410 million in its B series in July last year.

Artificial intelligence and robotics are a key battleground for Chinese tech firms which are seeking to emerge from the shadow of Silicon Valley. Many commentators in Asia have suggested that the recent tariff increases and battle over intellectual property announced by U.S. President Donald Trump are specifically targeted with the intention of preventing China’s planned economic transformation and expansion into cutting-edge industries.

“We are especially impressed by their R&D capabilities in deep learning and visual computing. Our business at Alibaba is already seeing tangible benefits from our investments in AI, and we are committed to further investment. Our strategic partnership with SenseTime will spark more innovation and create value for society,” said Alibaba vice chairman Joe Tsai in a statement.

SenseTime boasts 400 business partnerships in China and abroad, mostly in the financial technology, security, mobile Internet and retail sectors. These include deals with Qualcomm, to increase the intelligence of smartphones; with Honda to provide autonomous driving technologies; with Suning, to leverage facial recognition for check-out free shopping. It is also partnered with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology on MIT’s Intelligence Quest project.

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