This article originally appeared on MIT News on February 28, 2018.
MIT and SenseTime today announced that SenseTime, a leading artificial intelligence (AI) company, is joining MIT’s efforts to define the next frontier of human and machine intelligence. SenseTime was founded by MIT alumnus Xiao’ou Tang PhD ’96 and specializes in computer vision and deep learning technologies. The MIT-SenseTime Alliance on Artificial Intelligence aims to open up new avenues of discovery across MIT in areas such as computer vision, human-intelligence-inspired algorithms, medical imaging, and robotics; drive technological breakthroughs in AI that have the potential to confront some of the world’s greatest challenges; and empower MIT faculty and students to pursue interdisciplinary projects at the vanguard of intelligence research.
SenseTime is the first company to join a new Institute-wide initiative, the MIT Intelligence Quest, since its launch earlier this month. The MIT Intelligence Quest seeks to leverage the Institute’s strengths in brain and cognitive science and computer science to advance research into human and machine intelligence in service to all humanity. It will apply the fruits of its discoveries to diverse fields—from materials design to finance to early disease diagnosis—while considering deeply the economic, cultural, and ethical implications of AI.
An essential element of the new initiative is forging connections with innovative companies and individuals who share MIT’s passion for work in intelligence.
“As an MIT alumnus, I’m grateful to have this opportunity to collaborate with my alma mater, especially on something that is dear to my heart—to advance research on artificial intelligence,” says Tang, who is also a professor of information engineering at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. “SenseTime is committed to innovating in the fields of computer vision and deep learning. With the creation of the MIT-SenseTime Alliance on Artificial Intelligence, I’m confident that we will bring together the world’s best and brightest talent to further advance the state of the art for AI to the benefit of society.”
Li Xu, CEO and cofounder of SenseTime, adds, “MIT has long been at the forefront of research into artificial intelligence. As the largest provider of AI algorithms in China, SenseTime has worked with more than 400 leading customers and partners to solve hard, real-world problems. We are very excited to join hands with MIT to lead global AI research into the next frontier.”
The alliance emerges from a longstanding connection between MIT and Tang, who conducted his PhD research in underwater robotics and computer vision at the Institute more than 25 years ago, applying computer vision to the study and classification of underwater imagery. One of his advisors was W. Eric L. Grimson PhD ’80, now the chancellor for academic advancement at MIT and the Bernard M. Gordon Professor of Medical Engineering.
“Xiao’ou has used the same practical approach to computation and artificial intelligence that he displayed at MIT to build a highly successful academic and applied research career and a tremendously successful, technologically impressive startup company in SenseTime,” Grimson says. “He has become well known throughout China and the world as a leader in the field of AI, and especially computer vision and deep learning. Xiao’ou has always kept MIT front of mind, both as a professor and an entrepreneur. He has shared intellectual ideas and is ever on the lookout for impressive young talent whom he encourages to apply to the Institute. 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.”
Anantha P. Chandrakasan, dean of the MIT School of Engineering and the Vannevar Bush Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, who recently helped to lead the development of the MIT Intelligence Quest, says, “I am thrilled that SenseTime has chosen to join us as we embark on our quest to achieve a deeper understanding of the science and engineering of intelligence and to harness that understanding to create a better world. Dr. Tang is no stranger to innovative research, and the MIT-SenseTime Alliance on Artificial Intelligence will facilitate boundary-pushing research in intelligence across the Institute and give faculty and students opportunities to unlock new thinking through intense collaboration. This is an exciting moment for both MIT and SenseTime.”
MIT has been on the frontier of intelligence research since the 1950s, when pioneers Marvin Minsky and John McCarthy helped establish the field of artificial intelligence. MIT pushed several major advances in the subsequent decades, from neural networks to data encryption to quantum computing to crowdsourcing, and the Institute now has more than 200 principal investigators whose research bears directly on intelligence. Currently, the 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 serve as connected hubs for AI and related research at MIT.
Considered China’s leading AI “unicorn” valued at more than US$3 billion, SenseTime has developed a sophisticated proprietary deep learning platform and built applications for multiple industries. The company has applied its core computer vision technologies, including face recognition, video analysis, text recognition, and autonomous driving, across industries such as automobile, finance, mobile Internet, robotics, security, and smartphones.
SenseTime is currently working on developing autonomous driving, intelligent medical treatment, and deep learning hardware optimization. It is also strengthening its technology platform and attracting leading talent from around the world to open up greater applications scenarios and a SenseTime-driven AI commercial ecosystem. The company has offices in Beijing, Chengdu, Hangzhou, Hong Kong, Kyoto, Shanghai, Shenzhen, Singapore, and Tokyo.